Finishing the Marathon

by Mike Ratliff

In 1978 I decided to become a runner. I was 26-27 at that time. I began running a mile or so out from my apartment in Forestville, Maryland then running back. As I was able, I added distance to that run in half-mile increments on the outbound route. That would add a mile to my run. By late 1979 I was able to run 5 miles in about 30 minutes or so. In 1980 I moved from the Washington, DC area to the Oklahoma City area. By this time my Dad had taken up running. He could not run the distance at my speed, but he could run all day. He ran marathons.

We belonged to the Oklahoma City Running Club. We ran in club races or special races like the Oklahoma Governor’s Cup. I would run the medium distance race and my Dad would run the marathon. I remember very well the day my Dad ran his first marathon. We drove to Enid, Oklahoma to spend the night at my Aunt and Uncle’s house then run our races the next day. His race started at 7am and mine at 8am. My race was a 10K while his was the marathon. I ran my race, got my trophy, (a granite paper weight) went to my Aunt’s house to take a shower, put on street clothes, and then returned to the place where the race was being held. I found that my Dad’s race was still not complete. No one had finished yet as I checked with the official starter.

Later, I heard a fellow standing on top of an RV yell that the leaders were approaching. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find my Uncle standing there beaming. He was my Dad’s older brother by about 15 years. He had driven to the turn around point for the marathon to await my Dad and pick him up if he couldn’t finish. He told me that my Dad looked great and was going to finish just fine. We watched the leaders come in one at a time. They were all in my age group or younger. About 45 minutes or so later, I looked at the timer. It showed 3 hours and 28 minutes. Then as I turned back to the finish line I could see a figure in the distance that looked like my Dad. He was running very well. He was wearing a maroon top and black shorts. His gait looked like my Dad’s, but I wasn’t sure. Then my Uncle cried out, “That’s him!”

It was surreal as this man in his late 50’s ran across that finish line in his first marathon. He ran it in 3 hours and 30 minutes. He looked as fresh as he had when he started. However, when I got close I could tell that he was a bit weary. As we walked around the area together as he “cooled down” I asked him all about the race. How tough it was, how he felt at the turn, how weary he had become, etc. He marveled at my incredulity that he could finish such a race. He actually beat scores of younger runners, some of them from our own club. He had trained with some of them.

This Christian walk is a race, but it is not a sprint nor is it a mile. It is a marathon. No one can tackle a long run like a marathon unless they put in the miles and the training in order to build stamina. It is imperative to learn how to pace yourself. It seemed that in every race I ran at least one person would start way too fast and could not finish. In this walk, many appear genuine only to “burn out” and fall away or perhaps they “get bored” with church so they turn back to their former lifestyles. That is not what genuine believers do.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV)

Even though all with genuine faith are justified in God’s sight and are secure in their salvation from the moment they first trust Jesus, believers are not those who “make a decision for Christ” and then live a life indistinguishable from the world around them. Those with true faith persevere until the end, and only those who persevere until the end have true faith.

Notice that those who do finish this race run it patiently. They lay aside every weight, and the sin that easily besets them. They learn to be Spirit-filled. They learn to live godly lives. They are able to do these things by constantly looking unto Jesus. They may suffer much, but Jesus lead the way by enduring the cross, despising the shame. Through His joy, which He give to His children liberally, they can run this race with patience and endurance.

What must we to do? Let us commit ourselves to lives of patient obedience. We must learn to be Spirit-filled; then as we draw near to the finish line we will discover that there will be multitudes awaiting us, cheering us on as we cross that finish line. My Dad will be 84 next month. His running days are long gone. However, there is another race that he is running. I suspect that the finish line is fast approaching. In a way, I envy him.


12 thoughts on “Finishing the Marathon

  1. Dear Brother Mike,
    I’m always encouraged when I read your posts. Thank you so much for listening to the Spirit and writing what he puts on your heart. Many times your words have offered confirmation. Lately, I have been reminding myself to keep running this race. Thank you for reminding me as well. I am impatient. It’s difficult when my heart longs to see Christ face to face. Not only do we live in a corrupt world but even the salt seems to have lost its savour. I understand the envy you feel. I understand that it is not a death wish, but rather a great desire to be with your hearts desire. To a world obsessed with youth and in denial of judgement we are thinking backwards. I praise God that he allows us to see truth, to be able to put on the mind of Christ and that he sends other believers to confirm. Without the Spirit and without the confirmation I would surely think I’m going mad. I have no doubt that without the spirit we would be brainwashed in short order and lost. How blessed we are to have eyes to see and ears to hear. What great unmerited favor. May the Lord continue to bless you with wisdom, discernment, knowledge and understanding. May he bless you with love and ever increasing faith. Tanja


  2. I was just about to go walking / running.. didnt ralize that your about to sleak religion in the end 🙂

    None the less am hyped for my evening walk now 🙂 thanx heaps


  3. Dear Mike:
    I am teaching through Hebrews and my pastor is doing the same…! It certainly is a timely book for the temptation to “abandon Christ” is great and the apostasy is rising high. These are hard times and getting harding each day. I appreciate your work in posting and am grateful for your faithfulness. May God richly bless your efforts. Grateful for His Grace, Wendy


  4. Thanks for this Mike. We are so fortunate to have Dads that pray for us and now encourage us in our marathon. I love talking to my Dad about our Lord. He’s almost 91 and failing but when we talk of our Christian walk and the Word, his mind is a sharp as a sword.

    Yesterday we buried my sister-in-law. What a challenge her sister gave to those who came, “Where will you spend eternity?!!” She also expressed her envy that she is still here and Marylin is in the presence of the Lord. I think my grief was more for those family members that scoff at the salvation message that was clearly presented to them, than for my own loss of a dear sister in the Lord. Marylin ran the marathon since she was a child – like the example of your Dad’s marathon – steady and unwavering all the way and letting her light shine.

    In Christ,


  5. TOG,

    Thanks for sharing t that! Funerals are incredible focal points of the reality of how this life is merely temporal, but eternity awaits. Let us run this race with patience, looking always unto our Lord. Perhaps God will use us as examples for others as you said.

    Where will our loved ones spend eternity? Let us also never stop praying for those not in the race that God will draw them in.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


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  7. Mike, I have also been amazed in the last couple of years the number of scriptures that speak of the need for endurance, perseverance and faithfulness in the face of difficulties and trials in the Christian life. Revelation especially speaks of these, and Christ actually commends even the churches of Ephesus and Thyatira for their patient endurance (though He rebukes them too). I have found personally that the Christian life is a long distance marathon; and I have felt burnt out at times. But the Lord, since He is the one that causes us to persevere, brings life-giving nourishment and strength to go on. IT is good for us to examine ourselves, but please do keep exalting the Lord Jesus Christ and reminding believers of all that He is and does for us. Some believers who have tender hearts and consciences will keep looking inward and finding all manner of failure and sin and this can lead to doubts and cause weakness and stumbling. There is examinination, and then there is morbid introspection. The antidote is to fix one’s eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith. Heb 12:2 We are no less needy day to day than the weakest babe in Christ. In fact, it is in leaning heavily upon Him and resting in Him that we find needed help and strength.


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