I had what seemed to be a long recovery when my hip was damaged while running in junior high. I had to watch others run most of the season while I hobbled around on crutches and then limped around on my own. I went to most of the meets to support my teammates. I followed the doctor’s orders, so I could get back to running as soon as possible. (Well, I didn’t stretch as much as I should have, but I was in junior high and didn’t see the potential long-term benefits.)
I was able to start running a little before the end of the season. The problem was I wasn’t going to be able to push my body enough to be competitive in the short sprints, which were my specialty. I didn’t have enough time to retrain my body to run much distance. Nor did I want to become a distance runner. At the time, it just seemed boring to me. The only option seemed to be the 400-meter dash. Of course, in junior high, I’m not sure “dash” is the correct word for it, but it was definitely as close to a full out sprint I was going to get without pushing my body beyond its limits.
The problem was I didn’t know if I wanted to try, probably because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it.
I wasn’t familiar with the strategy of the length of a race. I didn’t know if I had the endurance, especially since my training time was limited. I only had a couple weeks before Regionals, which would be my last chance to run that season. Our team didn’t have any strong 400-meter runners, so if I wanted to run it, I could. The coach was occupied with preparing all the stars for upcoming meets, so I didn’t have much opportunity to learn what to do.
Mr. Brooks had driven the bus to most of our track meets. He’d seen me stand on the side of the track to cheer on others. He knew I was itching to run, and he asked me one day when I was planning to get on the track again. I explained my options, and he said without hesitation, “Well, of course you can run the 440!” He gave me a few tips and words of encouragement. When he looked me in the eye, I believed what he was saying. Perhaps it was possible.
During every meet between then and Regionals, I didn’t stand beside the track cheering. Mr. Brooks had me training. He told me what to do on days between meets and even came to a couple after school practices to check in with me. I began to believe I could not only run the 440 but that I could run it well. I told my coach I’d run it. I was excited but nervous. I was fast before getting hurt. I was used to doing really well. I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
It would have been easier to back out, but Mr. Brooks had poured too much time and confidence in me. Every time he looked into my eyes and spoke words of encouragement, I knew I would run that race. When we got to the regional meet, I remember him standing with me beside the track and pointing to the various points around the track where he wanted me to pay attention to certain things about my running and breathing. He reminded me how to hold my shoulders and what to expect from other runners. He told me to run my own race. He told me I could do it. He told me he believed I could do it.
I remembered everything he told me while I was running. His voice rang through my head, and I could hear him yelling every step of the race. I pushed through the finish line, my first race since being hurt, and I won. I won my heat, and I qualified for Sectionals. I was ecstatic, but I think Mr. Brooks was even more thrilled.
I don’t remember my track coach giving me any advice about the race. I don’t remember my track coach’s response. But I clearly remember Mr. Brooks and how critical he was to the process. Sometimes the most important coaches in life won’t be the people in actual coaching positions.
We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. (Hebrews 12:1)
Who has coached you to run the faith race well? Whose faith journey are you coaching? Be strategic. God believes in you and wants you to finish well.