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Tag Archives: Running Cross Country

Run into the Tower

As a former runner, my high school cross country coach used a series of different techniques to get our team into shape at the beginning of each season. One of my favorites is known as fartlek training. This intermixes walking, jogging, and sprinting. Depending upon the group you were placed in, the leader with a stop watch sets the pace and gives the command to switch every 2 to 5 minutes. Starting with power walking soon transitions into a steady jog until you go all out, as fast as you can go, until this cycle is repeated several times.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the [consistently] righteous man [upright and in right standing with God] runs into it and is safe, high [above evil] and strong, Proverbs 18:10.

King Solomon uses the Hebrew word לרוץ at the end of the passage above. Solomon could have used הליכה to command his children to walk into God’s strong tower. Another option was to זה מה שאני עושה, by elevating the sense of urgency to a jog. Rather, Solomon doesn’t want people to be apathetic or distracted. Thus, when you find yourself surrounded by a world filled with darkness, run toward to the Lord’s strong and safe tower. This level of urgency is found in those who are upright and in right standing with God.

The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as a high protecting wall in his own imagination and conceit, Proverbs 18:11.

Unfortunately, the gifted, talented, and wealthy often exchange God’s tower for a high wall that they build on their own. Solomon compares this type of person with conceited individuals who possess a great imagination. The apostle Paul refers to a similar character flaw in Galatians 6:7. While things may go well for you for a while, those who trust in themselves will eventually become worn out by living outside of God’s strong tower. In view of this spiritual reality, run into God’s tower.

by Jay Mankus

Run with Certainty

After spending 4 years running cross country in high school, my college career lasted a week. The coach who recruited me and spoke at my high school banquet didn’t know my name on the first day of practice. Everything that I thought to be true about my potential in college was a lie. I’ve never been a quitter, but I lost my sense of purpose after 5 days. I didn’t have the energy to even make it on the junior varsity team. I guess you can say I lost that loving feeling for running if there is such a thing.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary, 1 Corinthians 9:26.

Intramural sports kept me in shape after I gained the freshman 25. I suppose breaking the dorm record by eating 9 cheese steaks in 30 minutes wasn’t such a good idea. Anyway, as my first set of mid-term exams arrived, I used running as a study break to clear my mind. Some nights I took a slow jog around campus. When finals stared me in the face, running became like a break from life. Listening to the sound track to Rocky IV provided me to the adrenaline to fly around campus before returning to my books.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Thirty years and another fifty pounds later, I have limited my running to the spiritual kind. While eluding to the Corinthian Games, a popular track and field event during the first century, Paul talks about the mindset runners possess. Instead of listening to your body, long distance runners enter a trance like state, focused on what’s ahead while maintaining a steady stride. When you run with certainty, there’s no doubt you’ll cross the finish line. Christian’s don’t leave their old life behind to follow Jesus just hoping to get into heaven. Rather, we run with certainty, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

There’s No Change Without Pain

Self gratification has become like a cancer within the human soul, slowing eating away white blood cells of common sense.  This obsession fed by commercialism, “you can have your cake and eat it to,” has left individuals blinded by empty promises.  In a quest to fulfill this hunger, people have forgotten a simple truth of life: there’s no change without pain.

 
The apostle Paul speaks to this corruption while writing to the church in Ephesus, Ephesians 4:22.  As standards continue to decline, its easy to compromise, “well, everyone else is doing it?”  This futile thinking darkens understanding, leading individuals toward the cliff known as addiction.  Once formed or established, a continued lust for more can steer the disciplined into unhealthy habits, craving the latest junk food the world throws your way.

Snapping your fingers and poof, your request is granted is a mirage, a lie that the weak want to believe.  Real change requires developing a mindset of an Olympic  runner, ignoring pain so you can reach your desired destination, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.   Regardless of what your body longs for, keep your goal in sight, Philippians 3:12-14 to avoid being sidetracked.  Like the song from Rocky IV, there’s No Easy Way Out.  Therefore, throw off any excess baggage, endure hardship and run with perseverance until change becomes reality, Hebrews 12:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

Where it All Began

Initially, the Bible was a gift I received after partaking in my first Holy Communion as a 2nd grader.  This white leather covered book was filled with pictures, perfect for someone that age.  As I grew older, busyness, distractions and other interests caused me to leave these pages on my shelf, collecting dust for years.  By the time junior high rolled around, the Roman Catholic Church informed me that it was time for confirmation, usually a year long process filled with a detailed checklist.  Despite receiving an adult black leather King James Bible for my hard work, I treated this book like a hotel visit, inside my nightstand.

 

As I entered high school, the priests at my parent’s church claimed that only they could properly interpret the Bible.  Sarcasm inside of me thought; “why did you give me 2 Bible’s if you knew I wouldn’t understand it?”  Turned off by men of the cloth, God placed me into an unique setting.  Although superficial at first, I began running cross country to get my name in the news paper, like our paperboy who always finished in the top 3 of each race.  The Lord used this artificial motivation to bring me into something special, like a small family of strangers who seemingly hit it off from the beginning.  Cross Country was no longer just running, it was eating meals together, spending time dreaming about life and sharing burdens to help each other to get through the day.

 

The Bible became more than just a book before each cross country race.  It all began during chapels, pre-race huddles when a senior would share an inspirational story, our coach would read a verse from the Bible about running and a captain usually closed in a short prayer.  Hearing passages like Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Galatians 5:7 transformed my perspective of the Bible.  Prior to high school cross country, the Bible was a book, too holy for me to comprehend.  Yet, when my own peers began to recount the words of the apostle Paul, an avid sports enthusiast, there was an instant connection, Romans 10:17.  By the end of my sophomore running season, I was ready to take the plunge, Romans 10:9-10, a leap of faith.  For me, this is where it all began.

by Jay Mankus

The 16 Minute Man

As I entered my teenage years, Lee Majors starred in the television hit The 6 Million Dollar Man.  This show featured Steve Austin, an astronaut who undergoes reconstructive surgery to save his life.  As a result, he becomes the world’s first bionic man.  Doctor’s promised to make him bigger, stronger and faster after the operation.

Although this show did not inspire me to run, I developed an unusual desire to run like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire.  According to the film, when Eric ran, he could feel God’s pleasure.  I never did achieve this sensation; nor did I enjoy running everyday.  However, the competitor in me longed to break the 17 minute mark for 5K or 3 miles.

During my senior year of high school, I achieved this feat twice.  The first time occurred in my team’s only loss of the season as I allowed 2 runners to pass me in the final portion of the course.  The second time was much sweeter as God enabled me to run 16:30 for 3 miles on a hilly course.  Out of 207 runners, I was 20th, collapsing at the finish line, giving all that I had for the first and only time in my life.  Despite being told by doctor’s a year earlier I would never run again following a horrific ankle injury that ended my junior cross country season, God empowered me to become a 16 minute man.

by Jay Mankus

The Running Experience

 

From the fall of 1983 through the spring of 1993, I logged several thousand miles training for the cross country season, competing in dual meets, running in large invitationals and staying in shape through road races.  My initial experience began as a I ran from cars I threw snow balls at, fleeing the scene of houses I just toilet papered and sprinting from the authorities trying to access road signs for our high school display case.  In elementary school, Physical Fitness Week introduced me to the 50 yard dash, the 3rd fastest in my grade at Harlan Elementary, in inner city Wilmington.  During my 2 years at Hanby Junior High, gym classes forced students to run a timed mile and 2 mile once a year on our school’s track.  By the end of 8th grade, I ran a 6:20 mile and just broke 13 minutes for 2 miles.

However, there is so much more to the running experience than meets the eye.  First, running is a way you can channel your energy.  Like Bo Jackson in the ESPN 30 for 30 Presentation entitled, “You Don’t Know Bo, each of us used sports as a vessel to express ourselves to overcome stuttering.  In college, I would frequently take study breaks by running 3 miles to clear my mind from all the stress and worries of life.  Afterward, I was awake, fresh and ready to tarry on until my work was complete.

Running is also a spiritual encounter, a time you can use listening to God.  While running with a Sony Walkman in one hand, God’s voice always seemed clearer when I ran consistently for a decade.  Maybe this is why the apostle Paul uses so many metaphors in correlation with running in the Bible.  Hebrews 12:1-3 illustrates why people should run and 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 details how we should run.  Some of the most intimate times I have ever had with God have been running alone at night, getting in touch with myself and communing with the Holy Spirit.

Finally, running teaches you the values of dedication, hard work and perseverance, 1 Timothy 4:8.  Running isn’t easy nor is it a natural desire for most people.  Although, once you stick with it for a few years, you cross a threshold which actually brings joy to your life each time you run.  I stopped running for good in 1996, when stray dogs from our neighbor constantly chased me for miles.  Since I had nothing to aim or shoot for, a lack of cartilage in both my knees made my decision easy.  Today, I am semi-retired from running, only training with my 2 boys during the summer to prepare them for their cross country season.  Yet, I still practice Paul’s mental challenge in 1 Corinthians 9:27 as I continue my running experience with Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Personal Records

4:52 mile at Brandywine Creek State Park

10:20 2 mile also at Brandywine during the same cross country race

16:30 3 mile in the foothills north of Baltimore Maryland

16:53 5K (3.1 miles) at Delcastle Recreation Center

29:52 5 miles at Bellevue State Park as a 10th grader before my ankle surgery

Breaking Down

Arden McMath and Meghan Vogel

As homecoming festivities commence on high school and college campuses across the country, I was reminded of a nightmarish event this morning.  During my sophomore year of high school, I gathered up enough courage to ask one of my cross country teammates to our upcoming Homecoming Dance.  However, there was a problem, I didn’t know how to dance and I wasn’t old enough to drive.  Since I really liked her, I didn’t have the foresight to consider any of the obstacles until I received an answer.

Unfortunately, I received 3 different answers over a 4 day period.  I felt like a ping pong, still up in the air, but ready to be hit back and forth.  I went from a maybe to a I’ll meet you there to a gut wrenching “I’m going with someone else from school.”  Running 8 miles for practice is hard enough, yet when you add this devastating news to my mind, I became emotionally unstable.  After running 5 miles along the Brandywine River, with my thoughts racing back and forth, I finally crashed in the form of an anxiety attack.

This emotional breakdown, while frustrating at the time, was a turning point in my life.  Up to this moment, I was trusting in myself.  Although I owned a Bible, I never used it unless I was in church listening to a priest read from the Old and New Testament.  A few weeks following this incident, I finally accepted an invite to attend a Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Bible Study, rejecting offers for the first 15 months of high school.  Then, on December 3rd, 1983, I publicly professed my faith in Christ, Romans 10:9-10 at another FCA event.  God used this rejection and preceding breakdown to lead me toward heaven’s door, Revelation 3:20.  If you are having one of those days, remember that the storms of life strengthen you, helping you to become mature and complete as a person, James 1:2-4.

by Jay Mankus

Discovering God in America

Children across America will either have today off or learn about Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.  Meanwhile, I will be celebrating a 27 year anniversary.  On this day in 1985, I discovered the power of God in America.

I was a junior in high school running in a cross country race I felt destined to win.  Although I was competing against 4 high school all-American runners, I was 4th place at the mile mark, a few strides behind the 3 leaders.  While running down a path like the caption above, I fell into a hole covered by fallen leaves, twisting my ankle.  After falling to the ground for a moment, I shook off the pieces of gravel from my hands, got back up and hobbled to the finish several minutes behind the lead pack.

After the race, I was taken to a local medical center and a few days later to the A.I. Dupont Children’s Hospital, one of the best medical facilities on the east Coast.  Initially thinking I had a high ankle sprain, I was hoping to return for the post-season since our team was ranked second in the state.  When I received a second opinion, my world was turned upside down upon hearing the doctor’s prognosis.  “You will never run again!  You may be able to walk, yet you will likely have a slight limp for the rest of your life.”

The day before my surgery, I came back to school, seeking prayer from my Christian friends involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  In between classes, as the word spread about my operation, I was greeted by hugs, prayers and the love of Christ.  I honestly don’t remember what these people said as they prayed before each class, yet I do recall being filled with a peace that surpasses all understanding, Philippians 4:6-7.

Before my surgery, the chief surgeon at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, explained exactly what he was going to do during the 3 hour procedure.  I was a 1 in every 10 year injury, tearing all of my ligaments, causing the bone attached to the ankle to shift 90 degrees.  At least I was famous, well not really, but the doctor instilled a hope within me as he put me under anesthesia.  As the lights turned black, I was unconscious for several hours.

Once the drugs wore off, I met face to face with an ecstatic surgeon.  To his amazement, as soon as he reattachment the bone to the ligaments, it magically went back into place, not requiring a screw as he first intended.  I had to wear a protective boot for a few years, yet I was able to run my senior of year of high school.  In fact, before I could walk, I began swimming on the swim team, having our 200 I.M. Relay place 3rd in the state meet.

As I reflect upon another Columbus Day, I know that the prayers my friends prayed miraculously healed my ankle, not magic.  When I began to train in the summer of 1986 for my final season, God revealed to me a powerful promise related to running.  As David, a shepherd walking up and down hills and along side the edge of mountain, he prayed this prayer, ” You broaden my path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.”  Since this discovery, every time I have quoted this prayer before running, I haven’t twisted my ankle.  If you look around you today, you too can discover God is alive in America!

by Jay Mankus

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