So much of the training for my upcoming race happened on weeknights after work. Because I'm a slow runner, some of those longer training sessions could take upwards of two hours to complete; longer, if I was accompanied by a dog.
So that I wasn't running in the dark of night, most of the times when I got home from work I'd race through the door, let the dogs out, fill their food dishes, change my clothes, and head out the door for a run. About 10 to 15 minutes in to my runs I'd realize that the last time I'd eaten had been lunch six hours prior. On a 3-mile run that's uncomfortable but manageable. On longer runs, that can be disastrous. During these sessions I'd become nauseous, shaky, and noodle-legged, barely making it home. After a few times of "bonking" I learned my lesson and started grabbing a quick snack (usually a banana) before my run. For long sessions, I'd try to eat something more substantial - peanut butter toast and the always reliable banana. I also started carrying food (animal crackers and Swedish Fish) and water with me. These practices made a noticeable difference on my endurance.
Staying hydrated is also important for runners. Dehydration not only affects a runner's performance but can be deadly, as well. Lack of water makes your blood thicker and sludge-like and makes your heart work harder.
I drink a lot throughout the day, but my preferred beverage is diet soda or iced tea, not water. Since the bulk of my training was during the high heat of July and August, I knew hydration was of particular importance so I made it a point to substitute water for diet soda as my pre-run drink, though a majority of my drinking during the day still consisted of the not-so-healthy beverages. I did not become dehydrated during these runs, as my sweat-soaked clothes indicated but I found my endurance suffered. It was not until I started regularly drinking water throughout my days that I found my strength lasted throughout my sessions. It seems that unlike food, where a quick bite to eat will give me a jolt of energy, hydration needs to be built up and sustained over time.
There are some definite spiritual parallels here. Jesus is called the Bread of Life (John 6:35) He offered the woman at the well living water (John 4:10-11). Our souls need to eat and drink. David prayed to God in Psalm 63
“my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
If living the life of a disciple is a race, we “runners” must take in nourishment. We must feed on the Word of God. We must drink of Jesus, the Living Water.
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart…” Jeremiah 15:16
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matt 4:4
“Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3
For believers in Christ to finish the race set before us, we need to practice good spiritual nutrition, taking in the food and drink God has set before us. We do this through prayer drinking in His Spirit, absorbing His very presence in to our own souls. We eat of His Word, the Bible by reading, meditating on and hearing the Word preached.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of
Christ.” Romans 10:17
I learned the hard way through dizzy spells and painful leg cramps that I need to eat and drink properly to run well if I intend on finishing this half marathon. I’ve learned the hard way that I cannot ignore my need for Jesus if I intend to finish the race He set before me. That race is lifelong and requires more than an occasional healthy snack, but regular, intentional healthy practices in order to cross that finish line. A DNF in that race is deadly.