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Enjoy the race. We have but one!
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By Gil Clelland, pastor at Sanctuary London

It was a great start. The sun was shining on the mountains. A cool breeze washed over my face. Although I was a little tired from trying to sleep in the land of the midnight sun, I felt encouraged and refreshed at the start of this marathon. I had enjoyed a big breakfast. I was full of energy. My son Joseph watched with love. My good friend Boyd – the man I was running for – cheered me on. Boyd had been my encouragement over the training months. When training got tough, I remembered his chemo treatments. When my muscles were sore, I thought about Boyd's life on the brink a few times in the last two years because of blood cancer. Boyd and many others kept me going in all my training runs. And we were now at the start of the run!

Over four months of fund raising was done. We had raised over $10 000 for Leukemia Society and people that had gone through Leukemia. The sightseeing in Alaska was over. Kayak trips, amazing wildlife and scenery, and visits to a glacier were in the past now. To be enjoyed in photos and memories. All that was left was the run. And I was running a marathon in Alaska! How amazing is that!

The sights were beautiful. The mile markers passed with ease. 1,2,3. Done in good time. 7,8,9 miles...I was on a great pace. But we kept climbing. The trail kept going up. Gravel roads and trails kept my attention. 11,12,13...was I slowing down? Halfway. But getting tired. And two more miles uphill. I kept hearing about and anticipating the “gentle slopes downhill on the second half." By mile 18, I was done. My body was exhausted. My legs were sore and I had little to offer. The first 15 miles uphill on gravel and trail had taken their toll and I was hurting. 18 in. 8 miles to go. Nothing left in the tank. Same place I failed in a training run. I was going for 21 miles that day and I stopped at mile 18. It was too hard. I had nothing left. On this day though, I realized: either I changed my focus...or I would not finish at all.

With 8 miles still to go, I switched my goal. No longer would I see a certain finishing time (I was aiming for a sub 4:00 hour marathon). No longer would I aim to get done. Slowly. Step by step. Breath by breath. I entered into the moment. Just be present. Breathe in. Breathe out. One step ahead of the other. I didn't need to see the finish line. I needed only to take the next step. That was my goal. That was my focus. I was slow but moving. Mile markers encouraged me. Water stops refreshed me. Prayers upheld me. Two hills just near the end of the race pushed me to the brink. And somewhere around four hours and 28 minutes, I finished the marathon in Anchorage Alaska.

Exhilaration and exhaustion overcame me. Done! Complete. Months of training. The last few months leading up to this race flew through my head. Prayers of so many. Love and encouragement along the way. Fund raising. Survival stories. Great loss of some. All flooded my mind. And I smiled. My son hugged me. Boyd ran at me with a hug and tackled me — he was so excited. What a day!

I sit a few weeks after typing this out. Memories still fresh. And the lessons even more-so. How often we start out strong and run out of energy? How often we focus on the finish line so intently, we forget the moment. And how often do we go at our pace, not God's? Running long distance has changed me. I used to like the “next” thing whatever it was. I'd be distracted even bothered by the present moment. Running keeps me in the moment. Running trains me to focus on right now. God's moment with me is right now. Yes, He has a future. And yes, our past is important too. But right now is the moment you have. Whether it’s a conversation, a prayer, a breath, or a step...slow down, see God in the right now. Enjoy the race. We have but one!