I’m not a morning person. When my alarm goes off at 5:35 every morning, nothing seems worse than rolling out of bed and flipping on a light. So why do I get up so early? The answer is simple: to go running.
I love running, as anyone who talks to me for more than 10 minutes could tell you. So when BJU created a collegiate cross-country team, I was excited beyond imagination. I trained all summer, came to campus early to attend boot camp, ran tryouts, and made the team. Then the hard work began.
Because of the initial heat in the afternoons, the team practiced at 6 in the morning. As the season progressed, our two coaches, Landon and Katie Bright, decided that these early practices worked best with the runners’ schedules, so the 6 a.m. runs continued. The first few weeks weren’t too bad. But as the semester went on and homework piled up, late night studying was required, and dragging myself out of bed got harder and harder.
The muscles in my legs were constantly sore, and my eyelids were as heavy as bricks. Not only was I physically exhausted, but the balancing act of school, work, running and keeping up with friendships was mentally wearing me down.
Halfway through the cross-country season at one of our early morning sessions, Coach Landon gathered us into a circle. Looking around I could see bobbing heads and closed eyes. But what he said was worth staying awake for.
“Okay guys, this is the tough part of the season,” he said. “This is where it comes down to mental toughness. From here on out, it’s going to be 90 percent mental and only 10 percent physical. You can do all the workouts, but if you don’t stay focused, you won’t race well.”
Mental toughness. That really hit me. If I want to perform well, I need to mentally dedicate myself to finishing at top speed. This is true of every situation, not just running. I know I’m not the only one with homework or the only one who has to get up early in the morning. So while I push myself mentally to race well, we all need commitment if we want to hurdle whatever personal challenges we are facing.
God has created the human body and mind with the capacity to do incredible things, and with His strength we can push ourselves to excellence.
If we’re willing to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to a goal, whether it’s a 5K record, getting a 4.0, or sleeping eight hours every night, and we go after our aim with enough tenacity, the race is practically won. In the end it will always be the individual with the strongest mind who will succeed.
So when you’re struggling to finish your homework on time or you have a physical challenge that really seems impossible, remember the Apostle Paul’s advice and finish your race. Rely on God’s power to give you strength to grind through the struggle. In the end it will make you more mentally tough, but also more dependent on Christ’s strength, a mindset we should all strive for.