Monday, November 5, 2007


The Badwater Ultramarathon. Just the name evokes difficulty. Then when you hear that it starts in Death Valley and ends on a mountain peak, it denotes near impossibility.

The equivalent of five marathons plus three miles, the Badwater Ultramarathon is the most demanding and extreme of all running events. The starting line is in Badwater, Death Valley, the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere marked at 280 feet below sea level. The course covers three mountain ranges totaling 13,000 feet vertical ascent and 4,700 feet descent, and ends at the summit of Mount Whitney, covering 135 miles…nonstop.

Temperatures have been known to climb all the way to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. While running in Death Valley, participants try to stay on the white line of the shoulder of the highway. Why? Because the road is so hot, it will melt the soles of their shoes. The white line is ‘slightly’ cooler. Contestants have described their time in Death Valley as ‘running into a hair dryer’ or as being trapped in an oven with no door.

Runners have been known to hallucinate while on this marathon. One man also claims his shoe size will go from size 11 to 14 before the race is over. The average time to finish this marathon is 48 hours, while the time limit is 60 hours.

By now you may be asking what the reward is for finishing this race. A million dollars? Thousands? Nope. For those who finish under 48 hours, they’ll receive the coveted Badwater belt buckle. Those who complete the race in the required 60 hours will receive a t-shirt.

What kind of payoff is that, you ask? I think the real reason the runners are in this marathon is just for the satisfaction of being able to complete such a grueling race. I mean, can you imagine? 135 miles of the most awful conditions man can endure…and to say you made it. You achieved your goal.

I read this information with fascination. It brought forth two questions. 1. Can I say the same about my spiritual life? 2. Can I say the same about my writing life?

My favorite verses are found in Hebrews 12:1-3. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

Are we consistent in our faith? In our spiritual walk? In the race set before us? Our goals? We may look at the list given in the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’ found in Hebrews 11 and say, “Yeah, but I’m not like them.” Yes, we are. They’re human, just like us. They made mistakes, just like us. Yet God used them for something special…and He can use us too. God never said it would be easy. Almost the entire book of Acts tells us to expect opposition. But God does promise to be with us through it all. As Chuck Swindoll said… “Faith does not change my circumstances. Faith changes me.”

You may look at the marathon runners and say, “Yeah, but I’m not like them.” Yes, you are. Yes, it takes training to do something like that, but what doesn’t? It takes training to stay consistent in your Christian walk. It takes training to be able to run a marathon. It takes training to write well enough to get your book published.

You can’t give up. Ever. I’m guessing that the runners who didn’t manage to cross the finish line of the Badwater Ultramarathon return for another go at that belt buckle. When we fail in our walk of faith, or when we receive a rejection letter, we need to return to that starting line and plan to go the distance. Like the Ultramarathon, there will be ups and downs. Valleys and peaks. But keep your eye on the goal. Who wouldn’t want to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”