Pilgrim’s Half Marathon


I have an old and rare edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress – Bunyan’s allegorical classic of the Christian fleeing to the Celestial City.  A road movie to end all road movies!

It sounds strange, but as I train for the City to Surf half-marathon (raising money for City Bible Forum btw) it’s this story that encourages me to keep running on.  To see life as a journey is WAY too Eastern for me, but a marathon (er, half-marathon – Ed) seems to fit Christianity so much better, especially in light of Hebrews 12

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Bunyan certainly had this in mind didn’t he?  But a minor exegetical point first, the witnesses are not witnesses OF us, but witnesses TO us, of the gospel path to run.  There is still a certain loneliness that the long distance runner in the Christian faith experiences, and that’s the loneliness of your own thought life.  So much of our life is shaped by the silence inside our heads. Listen to the witnesses before you listen to the things that would way-lay you.

So when I am running and feeling tired, my thoughts of running towards the Celestial City propel my life.  I want to keep going. I have met several post-fifty year olds in the past few years who have chucked it all in – no longer believers in Jesus – and they seem so happy about it!  Keep running! Why lose it all now!

At 45 I am (on average) over the half way point of life. That’s the 10.55 turning point in my training run, just up the trail past Sam Drucker’s store in Parkerville (that’s what it’s called folks!).  What do I need to do? Finish well. Don’t get tripped up or waylaid by Listlessness or its Siamese Twin, Lust. Those things never go away, they simply become more sophisticated. The regret of giving up late in life will haunt you for eternity.

The trail I run has lots of byways – they all whisper Vanity Fair to me.  The rotting bridge which the steam train used to run along doesn’t exactly have a troll under it, but Giant Despair is always lurking.  Sometimes I DO wish I had a running companion – a Hope – who pushes me to go under 4:30 a kilometre EVERY kilometre!

I know, I know, it all sounds a bit twee, but if the Shema and its instructions are to be taught along the road (Deut 6), then while running is so often a past-time in which we are left to listen to ourselves – the constant tooing and froing of our private thoughts – then speaking to ourselves is a great counter.

And then there’s the joy of finishing. For me it’s the trail head at the top of Morrison road when bushland suddenly gives way to suburbia.  It’s a joy that Jesus – our forerunner – has experienced, and one which will be ours when we reach the Celestial City



  1. You do have such a poetic way of describing the turmoil that plagues us all at times. The complacency that is a killer for an athlete is true for a Christian. The balancing act between doing, being, trusting, believing despite the silence, over-thinking and under-thinking. The list could go on until, post 55, one could say ‘stuff it! this is all too hard amongst the new distractions of kids grown, health not so great, job boring, etc etc’. sounds depressing doesn’t it? However, an athlete pushes through the self-defeating thoughts and the pain and hangs in for the Gold.
    Your analogy is perfect, Steve and we need encouragement to run past the trolls every day. Thanks

  2. I am no athlete but I understand the effort, strength and discipline needed for this, The key word here is discipline, but it should be tempered with understanding and compassion. Not misplaced compassion which can be easily manipulated and abused. I love the silence, that’s where you can reflect properly and this is important for a Christian. It’s only over-thinking at silence when we start to doubt within ourselves. We are constantly surrounded by noise pollution everyhere – at home, at work, at play etc……..
    Keep up your good work and actions!

  3. This would be a great chapter in my book (written in my head, not yet on paper!) “The Spiritual Disciplines of Running”. It seems like every time I am out running, a little gem of an analogy weaves its way into my free-flowing stream of conciousness, however yours are far more eloquent!

    Did you watch the Olympic Marathon? At about the 35km mark the Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich who had been with the small lead pack for all the race, was falling behind. It looked like it was going to be a Kenyan 1, 2. However with 5km to go he strided out, took the lead and won by a solid margin. The smile was priceless.
    We too will have times when we start to fall behind the pack and then it’s easy to give up running and simply walk home or even retire, however the finish line is getting ever closer and a strong finish will bring a smile to our Saviours face!

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