Paul the apostle and the author of Hebrews (who probably wasn't Paul - my money's on Priscilla) both compared the Christian life to a long distance run. And having completed more than twenty Parkruns (5k runs in parks round the UK) I can appreciate the metaphor.
At first exhilarating, part of the crowd. Then it thins out. I realise I may not be one of the leaders of the pack. 'Pace myself' becomes the mantra. First hill behind me. Nice long downhill patch now. Sun shining, God's in his heaven, all's well with the world (and all manner of thing shall be wel- ) hang about! Another hill. Reserves are less now. But a friend alongside helps with some morale boosting words. 'You're not going to die.' That kind of thing.
Halfway feels a long way. Why did I set out? Why put myself through this? Just then an 80-year-old woman zips past and sheer dented pride boosts determination. (80-year-old women do that, I find, in both the literal and metaphorical race.)
Now for the long haul. Concentrate on breathing. Like: keep breathing. Don't forget to breathe. Pant, pant. Uphill again. How can this circular route be all uphill?! Marshals clap us on.
I'm suffering a crisis of faith. I don't believe in running anymore. It's all a cruel trick. I am going to die after all. Why not just lie down there in the ditch? Goodbye, cruel world...
Near the finish? Steals on the ear the distant triumph song. Last bit. '72 steps up this hill' says my friend. 'Good holy number.' How can he be pondering the significance of the Greek Old Testament when I'm struggling to keep lifting my feet?
Others have gone before. Exhilaration returns, all the sweeter for being mixed with exhaustion. There's the finish! I cross the line with my friend. I couldn't have made it without him.
There's a great cloud of witnesses watching us cross the line. Hallelujah! I've run the race, I've fought the fight.
Later Parkrun will send me an email. Well done, good and faithful runner...
Just keep running, friends.