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Who Coaches Your Run to the Father? Lordship in an Era of Individuality

On A Runner's Dilemma, my running blog, I talk a lot about training. Recently, my training took on a big change: My workouts are now written by Jim Spivey. He ran in the Olympic three times in the 1980s and 1990s.

As his running career came to a close, he got involved in coaching. Privately, he's been heading up a running club since 1990. I joined that last year.

This week, I went from working out with his club once per week to daily workouts. I do the daily ones alone, just as before. The difference? I'm not writing my own workouts.

I have been around running a long time, since I was 13 (I'm 41). I read everything I could, and can, to a degree, hold my own in a bar after a race and talk shop.

Am I an expert? Not in the slightest. Writing my own workouts has been a hodge-podge of guesswork and randomness. I don't know what I'm doing. Relinquishing control of my coaching here is an easy call. No second thoughts about it.

The workouts don't look like much. They are coded and customized for me. Here are seven days' worth:

5.16 F 30 m’s f, 4x100
.17 S race
.18 S 60-67 m's vf
.19 M nt
.20 T 42-52 m’s f
.21 W 35-40 m’s f
.22 R 15 m’s wu vf, 6x100
2x1000 f (300)[400] 4:16-4:28
3x250 gfg (150)[400]
2x1000 f (300)
So What?
I looked through upcoming workouts. Yesterday, I was supposed to run 60-67 minutes slowly. 67 minutes? What kind of time is that? Why not 65 or 70? Next Sunday, 65-72 minutes. Short distances are as odd. For 1000 meters, in a track workouts, I'm to aim for 4:16-4:28, not 4:15-4:30. Crazy, man. Ca-razy.

Or is it?

What If I Do Nothing?
I have a spreadsheet with a month of Jim's workouts. On one hand, it is very valuable. I have running goals, and those workouts might be the difference. What if, though, I do nothing, or if I ignore what it says? The value drops to nothing.

There is no value having a copy of a workout if it is not applied, but if applied, it has tremendous value. In my case as a runner, I race faster. In my case as a believer, I glorify God.

Doing something is not necessarily the answer. Today, according to my workout plan, is a rest day. Why? Outside of the general need for rest, I don't know. I can guess, but exactly the need to rest today, instead of yesterday or tomorrow, hard to say. Still, that's what it says. Even so, I am itching to hit the road for a few miles. My coach sees something important about resting today, so I will rest.

Sometimes God says, "Cease striving and know that I am God." (from Psalm 46). There's more going on than resting in that Psalm, but the point is the same. Sometimes we want to strive (usually a good attitude), but there are times when that's not what needs to be done. There is nothing more active than waiting on God.

God's My Coach
One thing I know about Jim: he's serious about running well. If he says 67 minutes, you can bet he has a good reason for it. Formulas met by stats and experience, applied to my unique running needs. 45 minutes, nor 90 minutes will do.

Try to follow the metaphor. Work with me. It isn't perfect, but I think there's something to it.

Jim -- he's got a 3:49.80 mile in his back pocket. That came from working hard and good genes. Not just that, though. It came from good coaching and trusting his coach.

Isn't that the way with God? Not everything He does, or asks us to do, makes sense, but He is omniscient. Where else could we go? Who else knows better than God?

I do not need to understand Jim's coaching theories to run well. I'd like to, but, if I trust him, and do as he suggests, the result will be the same no matter what I understand.

God tells us all a few things: love Him, love our neighbor. There is more, but you know that. God tells us things individually as well. Knowing when that voice is God, and when it is not, is a hard thing, but when we know it is Him, what should do?

Exactly as we are told.

In real life, on the track, this has been hard. I too often take off too fast for my own good. It is not out of belligerent rebellion. Why would I do that? I can do what I please on my own time. If that were the case, why show up for the workout?

No, I do it because it feels right, or the competitive bug gets me. And that's wrong. It means that, for a brief moment, I have tried to become my own coach.

God knows what is best. His timing and pace are right-on. Yet, we do something else. Maybe we know it, maybe we don't. Either way, something else is something else.

What if God wrote my track workouts? Would I have any reason to believe that I could write a better plan? With Jim, his off-the-cuff plans will be better than my hard-thought ones. God is never off-the-cuff. He is always perfect. Jim's not God. A human coach is just, and only that -- not perfect, bound by this Earth. Whether I run faster, in the big picture, really does not matter. The condition of my soul, however, does matter eternally.

Check out Noah. Did he understand why he should build a big boat a certain way, to be filled with a lot of animals? No. Did he do as he was told? Yes.

Where Does This Leave Me?
Same as it leaves you. Who is your coach, and what is he telling you? Do you write your own workouts, or does He? Are you running the race to win or just playing around?

It might take time to figure out we cannot coach ourselves into a sinless life, let alone a sanctified one. Until then, do not expect to race your best. Your best is His best. Period. That's where we need to be, tearing up our own plan and following His.

What's a Workout?
For starters, Scripture, prayer and obedience. If you're skipping that, the rest does not matter.

  • Are you reading?
  • Are you praying?
  • Are you doing what you know? (Loving God, and loving your neighbor)

See you at the track.

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