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Reflections from a 70.3 Ironman: Endurance

A Photo August 2nd 2013 No comments yet  

Iron Man 70.3

“Let us run with endurance…who for the joy before Him endured the cross.”

– Hebrews 12:2

Endurance is the opposite of quitting, and giving up stands in contrast to endurance. Endurance is a character quality that all people respect, but not everyone possesses. All admire the value, but not all have it, although all can obtain it. The only way to obtain it is to experience it. Although endurance as a concept can be understood intellectually, it cannot be gained without experience. You must experience challenge, difficulty, pain, suffering, unpleasantness, hardship, trial, and testing if you want to possess endurance.

Phrases that kept rolling over in my mind throughout the event were, “It’s not supposed to be easy!” and “It’s supposed to hurt!” If the event was easy or if it didn’t hurt, then endurance wouldn’t be necessary. That’s why endurance is defined as, “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort, often including suffering” (Merriam-Webster).

At the beginning of the event, adrenaline is high, energy is readily available, and excitement gets you going. After the first stage of the event, you have the feeling of accomplishment as you finish the swim. This spurs you on to the bike. The first 28 miles of the bike emotion is high, and the legs are strong, but on the second half of the bike the real testing begins. The roads can get bumpy, the headwinds are against you, and the hills make your legs burn while taking your breath away. The tests are greater as the day moves along. The fifth hill to ride up is more difficult than the second. The emotion at the beginning is different than the emotion in the middle or the end. But to finish, you must endure. Some are faster, others slower, but all are still moving.

Transitioning from the bike to the run includes feelings of hope, accomplishment, and challenge. The bike is done, but the legs are heavy and tired with 13.1 miles still ahead. As the run begins, a new dose of adrenaline helps, but not for long. You must be ready for the lengthy run. It is one step in front of another while the feet hit the pavement and the breath is short and the sun is beating down. There’s no shade. The only relief is water and ice every mile at the aid stations. But to finish, you must go on.

At this point, you can’t quit. You are so close. But this is the most difficult part. The last miles are the longest miles. In these miles legs hurt the most, and quads can feel like fire. Your feet are tired of the pounding, and your muscles can cramp or have spasms. At this point, all athletes feel some pain and suffering somewhere. This is when you endure!

As you near the end, endurance is learned. When you are tired, exhausted, spent, and hurting with little reserve energy, character is forming. Only at this point, when suffering occurs over an extended period of time, do you learn the lesson. You could quit, but if you have endurance, you won’t.

Simply put, endurance includes pain and testing. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be endurance.

When you are enduring, know that something is forming on the inside. Something good is growing and changing for the best, and it will last.

Hebrews 12:2 says that it was the joy set before Jesus that He endured the cross. That is how a person can endure. It is for the joy set before them. For Jesus it was the joy of sitting down at the right hand of the Father, receiving all glory, paying the penalty for sin, and conquering death. That is what was set before Jesus. That is why and how He could endure.

So it was at the 70.3 Ironman. With about three miles left in the race, there was a sign on the side of the road. No one was around it. It was just there. It read, “Remember why you’re doing this!” The answers varied for those that read the sign, but what they all had in common was the “joy set before them.” That is the key to enduring anything. It is remembering why you are hanging in there and not giving up when things get difficult. There is an inward reason why someone bears up under the prolonged effort. There must always be a reason.

Endurance happens when the pain is long, the challenge is great, the tests are frequent, and the future joy is recognized. May all of us be people of endurance.


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