On November 2, 2013, I completed my first marathon - at the ripe old age of 40. I definitely would not encourage anyone to wait until they are 40 to run their first, but I wouldn't take anything away from my experience. It was an experience that changed my life - both the race and the training I went through to get there. I learned a lot of lessons through this marathon.
Over the next several blog posts, I would like to share with you some of those lessons. I don't expect most of you to ever actually run a marathon (although many of you probably have). The lessons I learned are less about running - and more about life and leadership. I hope to be able to share them with you in a way that helps you and inspires you.
LESSON #1 - Everything Is Better In Teams (never run alone)
When I decided that this marathon was something I really wanted to pursue, I was 39 years old. I had always wanted to "run a marathon before I am 40." The problem was - I had never run more than a mile in my life. In fact, I had never really exercised or worked out with any consistency in my entire life. I was going to attempt something that was CRAZY! To go from ZERO to 26.2 miles in less than 6 months.
I decided I wasn't going to tell anyone that I was training. I didn't mention it to a soul (other than my wife). There were several reasons why I made this decision, but the biggest reason was...
I have a few people in my life (I am sure you have them, too) who I knew would immediately begin to make fun and patronize me as soon as they found out. They don't mean to hurt, but they just have a natural tendency to pounce and say things like, "YOU? A RUNNER? HA!" They then proceed to remind you of all the things you have ever said or done that are the opposite of the big decision you have just made. Not very motivating, is it?
I decided I didn't want to give those folks any opportunity, so I kept my training to myself. It was boring. No one to celebrate with. No one to collaborate with. Boring and difficult.
After I ran my first 5K I decided I would "come out of the closet" as a "runner in training." Guess what? The "naysayers" didn't disappoint. They had plenty to say, but I ignored them. Instead, I connected with those who had climbed this mountain before. I got in a group of guys who were excited about running and started training with them. All the way through the difficult training process, we ran together, texted each other, encouraged each other, and several of us even ran in the same race together (see their pic below).
I realize what a stupid mistake I made in the beginning. I tried to handle this huge challenge on my own. I didn't want to hear from those who might make fun of my wanting to attempt something so huge, so I let that keep me from reaching out to those who WANTED to celebrate with me and help me. There was nothing that could have compared to the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line with my family and friends cheering me on.
Often we make the same mistake in ministry. We try to "go it alone." Sometimes it is to prove we can do it on our own. Other times we try to do ministry alone because we don't want to share the spotlight. Whatever the reason we make the mistake - it is still a mistake. God created us for relationship. He created us to "run the race" together. If you find yourself "running" in isolation, it's time to tear down the pride, buck up, and connect with others.
There are many that God has called and equipped to be on your ministry team. They are waiting for you to connect with them, invite them to come alongside you, and run the race with you. So, what are you waiting for? Don't run alone. Everything is better in teams!