June 8, 2021
By Davide VanEpps
This past winter, I felt a nudge to do a fifty-mile run. I’ve been competing in endurance events for the past seven years for my favorite charity, Hope Water Project, so this seemed like a natural evolution to my racing portfolio, even though I didn’t think I was physically capable of succeeding. I’ve been down this path before – first with a marathon, then with an Ironman. Somehow, I believed that with the right training, and with the faith that God would show up when I needed Him most, this might be possible. So, I decided to go for it.
Once I mentally committed to doing a fifty-mile race, I did my research and created a training plan. At that point, I picked a specific race and began preparations. As I began fundraising, I heard one question from nearly everyone with whom I discussed this race, “Why?”
What’s Your Why?
I’ve often looked at people who’ve done ultra-marathon races and asked the same question, “Why?” Why would someone sign up for a race that they didn’t know if they could finish and risk thousands of training hours on failure? Why would someone sign up for a race that takes an inordinate amount of mental and physical energy in terms of planning, training, preparing, and then racing? Why would someone sign up for training and a race that will likely cause injuries along the way and physical pain both during and after the race?
Like any major decision in life, we look through the lens of our 3 Ps: purpose, passion, and priorities. If you haven’t thought about this before, I implore you to take a few introspective minutes and think about your 3 Ps.
- What’s your purpose? What motivates you? When you wake up every day, what gets your blood pumping? What’s the one thing that will be most important when you someday look back on your life?
- What are your passions? What do you love to spend your time on? What are those things you do that energize you the most? If money and time were unlimited, how would you spend them?
- What are your priorities? What are the things that are of the greatest value to you? How would you rank things like faith, family, health, work, hobbies?
In my case, my purpose is to positively impact the lives of others for God’s kingdom, and in this case, a race is an opportunity to raise money for Hope Water Project. It’s also an opportunity to train and race with others, using sports as a platform to drive positive impact and share God’s love. Lastly, it aligns with my passions for health and endurance sports, and it fits within my priorities of faith and health. To me, when I felt called to do a fifty miler, the decision was a no-brainer.
In the Bible, God has a lot to say about purpose and why we’re here. Starting in the book of Genesis, God created mankind to live in the presence of God (Genesis 2:15). More than anything, He wanted us to live in relationship with both Him and others.
God also made us to reflect His image and His glory (Genesis 1:27). God wants us to live our lives in a way that reflects the fact that we are made in His image. He also wants us to glorify Him in all that we do.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Above all, God wants us to seek Him. His door is always open for us.
One of the greatest priorities is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
God’s sense of purpose for our lives, and eternities, is clear: be in relationship, reflect God’s image, glorify God, seek His kingdom and righteousness, and make disciples.
What’s your purpose in life? Why do you believe God put you on earth? How are you seeking the kingdom and living a life that reflects and glorifies the Father while spreading His love?
In the weeks preceding the race, I experienced a myriad of injuries that impacted my training and caused me to question if I could make the distance. In my final weekend of heavy training, I was able to run 31 miles, but at the end, I was struggling to keep moving and was in so much pain that I wondered how I’d ever last another mile, much less 19 more. As race day approached, a friend suggested that I solicit 50 prayer requests, one for each of the 50 miles of the race, as a way to connect with God, pray for others, and keep my mind in a positive place on race day.
The field of runners was limited to 200, and the course was a winding, hilly, two-mile path that covered the full spectrum of terrain, including gravel, dirt, mud, grass, and stone. The race started in a chilly but sunny 28 degrees, and as the day went on, I was able to shed layers as the temperature climbed into the mid-50s.
The first 31 miles of the race were challenging due to the hills, terrain, temperature, and my pre-existing injuries. However, I’d run that far before, so mentally I knew I could do it. The real question in my mind was around what would happen in the last 19 miles. There were two battles taking place at that point. There was the physical battle, which required that I continued running fast enough to make the 12-hour cutoff while managing my nutrition, hydration, and pain. There was also the mental battle, which required that I focus on my why, prayer, and my strength in Christ.
Physically, I continued to execute my race strategy, which included nutrition, hydration, pain management, and pacing. Mentally, I used the strategy of 50 prayers in 50 miles to keep the focus on God. It truly felt like I spent 12 hours straight in prayer. I also leaned on my why. I took every opportunity possible to connect with others on the course, and I knew that if I could achieve my goal, I could glorify God and appropriately give Him the credit for success.
Every minute of the last ten miles was rough. The pain was intense, my pace was slowing, and I was battling the cutoff clock. I truly believe my close connection with God was working in my favor, as I continued to pray earnestly throughout the race and kept thinking about my why. I felt God’s presence as I prayed each of the 50 prayers, and I truly felt that He would help me cross the finish line.
As I approached the 50-mile goal, I realized that I was going to make it. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I reached the finish line, nearly 12 hours after the race began, and I simply looked up to the heavens in thanks. I knew that this wasn’t my accomplishment. I had leaned on the power of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit to carry me.
God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.
If you’d like to contribute to the Hope Water Project, please visit my donation site at https://profile.kensingtonchurch.org/page/827?GroupId=920311&GroupMemberId=2301740