I confess, it's the swag. Bigger races of longer distances give out better loot.
Certainly, I have other motivations. I enjoy the challenge. I want to be fit and healthy. I desire to maintain an active lifestyle and better quality of life. But when you get right down to it, I like getting prizes.
Many, many years ago I volunteered to work at a local 5K race for which I was given a long sleeve
t-shirt with an impressive race logo and the word "STAFF" down one sleeve. I felt official. When I wore that shirt I walked taller, a proud participant in an athletic event. I was hooked.
Since then, I've volunteered and walked in numerous charity events for t-shirts. And for really special events, hooded sweatshirts! Once I started racing, I rated the race based primarily on the quality of the t-shirt. I've raced in rain, sleet, sweltering heat and even in the dark wearing a tutu, all for the swag.
My race times will never qualify me for any prizes, but for the distance races - marathons and half-marathons - they give all the finishers a medal! I want that prize! I want to feel the weight of it hanging from my neck.
Notice the tutu on the left?
This sounds shallow and selfish, but really, I've got biblical precedent to back me up! The apostle, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." He knew, people like to win things.
In the next verse he then says "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." T-shirts are definitely perishable items. That "STAFF" t-shirt I prized sits in a landfill somewhere. The picture above is only a sampling of the
t-shirts I've collected through the years. Most have been relegated to the rag bag. Evan a medal won't last forever. A disposable item subject to rust and tarnish it will eventually wind up in the trash, I'm sure.
There are better things to work for, "...I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14)" being one of them. Still, to have and to hold a piece of metal is tangible evidence for me of "the prize of the upward call of God". That prize connects my physical senses with spiritual sense and gives some validation to the hours I've spent training - bodily training and training in godliness (I Timothy 4:7-8) God does give rewards, some which one can actually see and touch, hear, taste and smell. They should not be discounted.
So, on September 27, Lord willing, I will be testing my mettle in order to receive a metal medal. I will also be thankful for the strengthening of my spirit that has occurred during this training, a strength that does not diminish with time, as does bodily strength.