My training partner and friend Tom Grubbs and I recently were rejected by a publishing house for a devotional book for Triathletes. So I thought I'd just give you a little bit of what we had in mind. This first one is about starting a race and would have served as the introduction.
When you stand with your feet in the water or on the sand for the start of a sprint triathlon, your mind begins to wonder “what in the world are you doing here?” Or at least mine did on each of my three attempts during the past summer. I’m sure those around me who were more experienced were having different thoughts, but I guess that even some of the more experienced athletes were contemplating the same thing. What makes a person want to attempt to swim this distance, then get on a bike and ride while still wet, and then get off the bike and run a 5K race? The sun is barely over the horizon and we are about to push our bodies to do something we are not quite sure we are capable of finishing. I know it’s not the Ironman, but it sure feels like it from where I’m standing.
One of the reasons I began training to complete these types of activities is to keep my body in some reasonable shape. I Corinthians 6:19 states that “the body is the temple of the Lord.” So as a believer in Jesus Christ, I have a responsibility to keep my temple in as good of working order as I can. I have found that I do better with an exercise plan when it is tied to a goal that I am pursuing. Thus, knowing that I had to swim one quarter of a mile in the ocean became a goal that I knew would involve lots of swimming to achieve. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t want to drown in the process! Still standing there on the starting line, I didn’t quite “know” that I could make it on that first morning.
Another reason I wanted to compete in the triathlon was to make sure that I could still finish what I started. The only thing I ever quit in my life was high school wrestling and I only did that after setting a deal with our coach about my practice and my progress. When my progress didn’t match my practice, we both agreed it was time for me to move on to something else. But the older I got, the harder it has become to complete everything. My mind still says I can do it, but sometimes my body just doesn’t want to cooperate. I wanted to start the training so I could train my body again to finish the task at hand. I wanted to be able to say like Paul, “I have finished the race.” 2 Timothy 4:7. Although Paul was talking about his entire life and ministry, I wanted to know again that feeling of finishing something that seems impossible when you first start thinking about it. When I began training, the thought of finishing a sprint tri seemed impossible for me. Yet I knew that with the right training and the right encouragement, I could make it to the end. That’s a lot like life and ministry on a college campus by the way!
The final reason I wanted to run this race was just to say I had done something that so many others have never even tried. Maybe it’s the way I’m wired, but I really don’t want to be an average guy. I want to excel in everything I set my hand to do. That doesn’t mean I have to win. I’m not going to win any triathlons in my age category or weight for that matter any time soon. But I want to do stuff that others my age avoid or fear to try. When I cook, I want everything to taste great. When I compete, I want to give it my very best. When I read, I want to devour the knowledge in the material. I want my life to embody Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 10:31 that “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
After I completed the first race, there was so much to still learn about myself and the sport that I wanted to continue to train. Now that I have completed three years of races that desire to learn how far I can push myself is still as strong as ever. I’m starting soon to train for the next season of Triathlons with a hope and desire to complete an Olympic distance tri in the next couple of seasons. Who knows, maybe it will be this one. Still I know that it will take greater training and that same level of faith to jump in the water and start swimming without knowing completely that I can finish the race. I might not finish, but I know that I can start if I will only trust the Lord and jump in the water. The start is not the finish, but you can’t finish unless you get started!