“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
I was sucking air and trying not to focus on the fact that I had eaten a heavy meal the night before and didn’t sleep much. He, on the other hand, was chatting as if we were standing still. Something amazing happened during that run that has me pondering what it means to set a pace, not just in running, but in life.
Last week was only my fourth time running on a Saturday morning with a running club, and truthfully, I hadn’t been training much. I started running with the group after being invited by my super fit friend. I was nervous to join a group of runners. I was afraid that I would be ‘out of my league.’ My first week I was surprised to find that before running, the group is prayed over by a local man who comes simply to bless the run. There is no church affiliation, nor can I find any one thread that ties them all together, other than they all like to run and know this one amazing running coach named Junior. They do a weekly check-in before they hit start on their running watches and all take off at their paces. At the beginning, many of them share what their goal distance is for that day. There are varying levels of runners, from elite to ‘fun runner,’ and I am never sure whether I will end up running alone, as I am somewhere in the middle at best.
Something amazing has happened each week: someone has run up beside me and offered to be my companion to endure the distance with. As I turn around to go back to the start after a 6-7 mile run, and other folks are still looping for their 18-20 mile runs, I am often high-fived. People are encouraging no matter what your goal is. It’s contagious, and you start cheering for people as you pass each other on the path. All this is before 8:00 on a Saturday morning.
This week, my new running buddy informed me that he was enjoying “taking it easy with me.” He explained that my pace was comfortable because he had just finished a marathon the week before, so today he was only going to run ten miles. ONLY!? I, on the other hand, was hoping to knock out 6 miles at a good pace. I wasn’t taking it easy. I was completely out of my league. This companion was an accomplished marathon runner, clocking times like 2:53, which blows my mind! I wondered if running at my pace was hurting him or annoying him, but he continued to chat with ease and share stories of running. Every now and then I could muster a question or a response to his.
As we finished our 6-mile journey, I looked at my watch to realize I had run a lot faster than the week before. He had upped my pace. I felt grateful as I drove home, and it got me thinking: I do so much better with a pacer, not just in running, but in life. There are many quotes with the same message: in order to be better, you need to have people around you who push you to break your internal boundaries. You need to be surrounded by people who are moving in the right direction and are going to challenge you to do the same. As I look at my life, I realize I do best in my faith, work and life balance when I have pacers; people I am checking in with to make sure the balance is happening. We all need people who in their own lives have set a pace that has them moving forward.
I look at my friends who have been successful, and the story is the same again and again – they have surrounded themselves with people who are also striving for goals and who have the ability to encourage them without competition. You need a tribe to high-five and to challenge you. You need someone who keeps you going when it feels like all you are doing is sucking wind. This is true in the church as well. I need other pastors who are trying new things and moving beyond the slow pace that many have inherited; pastors who have a pace that is challenging but healthy. We may not be running the same race, but we are going in the same direction.
So today I wonder: who is helping you set a pace? Do you have mentors? Are you helping anyone else with their pace?