(On January 15, 2012, I completed my first marathon. This series breaks down the lessons I learned on my journey to the finish line.)
I remember one of my first retreats in high school. I came home Sunday night on fire and ready to be a new person. It was time to change. I was going to go to Confession every week, get to mass everyday, pray the rosary every night, and read my Bible every morning. I was going to be holy. No more making fun of people, bad language, or laziness. I knew I could do it. I was inspired.
And that lasted until Tuesday. Yep. Tuesday. I had so much to learn. You see, I was trying to run a sprint, and life is more like a marathon.
For those who don’t know, a marathon is 26.2 miles, and the best way to describe that is with the following words: very, very, VERY LONG. If you try to sprint it there’s a pretty good chance you’ll burnout early, like I did after my retreat. I had good intentions, and the things I was trying to do were holy, but I hadn’t set a foundation.
The Importance of the First Mile
As I trained for and ran in my first marathon, I came to realize the importance of the first mile. It’s in the first mile when you set a steady pace, allowing yourself to grow gradually as you continue the race. If you start too fast, you’ll exhaust yourself. If you start too slow, you’ll lose interest. But, the key is to get into a rhythm that allows you to focus and persevere until the end.
Along with that, in the first mile, your body is still adapting. There are little pains in your legs, feet, and muscles that can make you want to quit. But if you get into a rhythm and set a solid pace, do you know what happens? Those pains don’t bother you any more, and you continue on.
In Hebrews 10:36 we hear, “You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.”
And what is that promise? Salvation of our souls. But so often, we get those little moments of motivation and feel the urge to sprint towards that promise, forgetting a key word in the beginning of this verse: endurance. Growing in holiness takes time. It takes effort each and every day, and we build up endurance through foundation of prayer, which allows us to continue on that path to salvation.
Take a look at your own life. What is it that you want to achieve? What long-term goals do you have? How are you growing toward the ultimate goal of salvation (1 Peter 1:9)?
I was disappointed in myself after that first retreat experience because I fell so soon, but I didn’t have to. I learned that I needed to build up some endurance in my prayer life to get to that finish line. And you do too. Now, go hit that “starting line” and focus on that first mile. Find that steady pace, work through those pains, and build your endurance. The finish line is waiting for you.
Read more of the lessons Eric learned from his marathon: