I stood at the starting line, full of nerves. I heard the sound of the starting gun. I started the half-marathon along with those who’d chosen the same pace, although I soon found myself passing them.
Later on, they caught up, and many of them passed me. I finished the race and did well enough, but a friend of mine noticed something wrong. “You didn’t run a negative split,” he said.
I had no idea what he meant, so he explained. “A negative split is when you run the second half faster than the first.”
I’d done the opposite: I’d run too fast at the beginning, burning up reserves I’d need later. As the race progressed, my pace slowed, unlike those who’d left something in the tank for the last part of the race.
I want to run my life with a negative split.
The Second Half
I know myself well enough to see the danger of running the back half of my life with less intensity than the first. In fact, sometimes I think we expect to slow down as we get older.
Few people in their later lives have the energy they had in the first. That’s okay. Runners in the second half of the race feel tired too. You expect to get tired as the race goes on.
But it’s possible to train so you can run well when tired. We can learn to see life as a long-distance race, and learn what it takes to run at a sustainable pace for a long time, even when we get tired.
Training is the key. That may be why Scripture uses the image of training (1 Timothy 4:7) and speaks of running with endurance (Hebrews 12:1). It means we order our whole lives around this goal.
It also means that we reject our culture’s view of what it means to live in our latter years. In a vocational sense, we may retire: our vocation may change and we may shift our efforts. But we will never stop running the race until it’s over. We’ll keep striving as long as we’re alive.
Most runners run quickly at the beginning. Our goal is to build our lives so we can run even better at the end.
The Finish Line
When I ran that first race, I dragged myself across the finish line.
The next race, I prepared myself. I continued to train. I disciplined myself at the start of the race so that I could pick up my speed later. As I approached the finish line, I increased my speed and finished the race at my quickest pace.
That’s how I want to live my life. As I become an older pastor, the way I pastor will change, but I long for my passion to increase. As I become an old man, I’ll likely lose some sharpness and energy. But I pray that my soul will be more alive to the beauty of God and the privilege of serving him than it is now. And when I cross the finish line, I pray that I’ll be able to say, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
I want to live life with a negative split.