I signed up for Utah Valley intrigued by the idea of a downhill race with amazing scenery, and the beauty of the course made me understand what this means:

It bears a striking resemblance to the verse on the back of the shirt I wore for the race. 

When I got to town, the rental car place was all out of subcompacts, so they gave me this as a substitute. 

Couldn’t help but ask: If this were a dream, what would it mean? 🙂

I had to ask the same question again when I came across a bunch of these on my last shakeout run. 

I drove the course twice before the race. I wanted to familiarize myself with the route and take a few pics ahead of time. The views were absolutely breathtaking! 

I enjoyed the week in Provo, limiting my activity and input, simply letting myself breathe. I came a week early to enjoy a retreat in the mountains as I let myself adjust to the altitude, which turned out to be virtually a non-factor.  But I had no way of knowing that going into the race and no idea what to expect from a course so different than anything I’d trained on in Dallas. 

Add battling a hamstring issue for over three months (i.e., no speed work), and I was setting the bar low. My plan was to walk every 7th minute (good Biblical proportion!) and see what happened. 

With the injury, this whole training cycle was different. I think I’ve finally learned how to run a marathon without it running my life. 🙂  I felt well-prepared to run a solid race but went in without expecting it to be the race of my life. Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall gave a talk at the expo, and I was struck by something he passed down from a coach of his:

You won’t PR every race, but you can improve your average. 

On race day, my alarm was set for 2:30 AM (not a typo). I was on a bus to the start line around 3:30. We arrived a little after 4:00 and waited for the 6:00 start. Thankfully, they provided fire pits to keep us warm up there. While waiting for the race to begin, I chatted with a 70-year-old woman running her first marathon. Love that!

I recently read “The Power of God’s Names” by Tony Evans, a recapitulation of something I came to treasure from listening to John Paul Jackson. For this race, I chose a different name to meditate on for each mile. I am eternally grateful to my mother, who prayed them with me (and sent encouraging scriptures and texts) throughout the race. She found a verse for each one, which she graciously agreed to share. Email me at info@runningwithGod.com if interested. 🙂

Mile 1 – Adonai – The LORD. Ruler. Master. The Owner of everything and the One who is responsible for me and my race. 

Mild knee pain bothered me from the start, as, curiously, it had all week. It hadn’t been a concern until then.  But I pushed it out of mind as I enjoyed this view from the start line.  

Mile 2 – Elohim – Creator. The One who created everything out of nothing. The One who spoke the world into being. Nothing is too hard for Him. Intelligent design is evident everywhere, including in how He made my body.  He is worthy of worship.

Got to enjoy some of His incredible creatures as we ran past these horse farms. 

Mile 3 – El Elyon – Most High God. There is no one greater, higher, or more powerful. The supreme God.  The Deliverer of all that exists.

Mile 4 – El Emunah – Faithful. God is faithful to me. He is dependable, always keeps His promises, and loves me always and without fail. 

Mile 5 – El Hay – Living. God is ALIVE. He is the source of all life. Jesus conquered death. The grave could not hold the One who is Life. His Spirit lives in me. He gives me life and empowers me to run. 

Mile 6 – El Nose – Forgiving. God is gracious to forgive me for everything. He’s forgiven every bad thing I’ve ever done…and every bad thing I ever will do. It does not change His love for me, and He does not hold these against me. He demonstrated His love for me by dying so that I could be forgiven. I am clean. 

Mile 7 – El Shaddai – The Lord God Almighty. He is all powerful. Holy, holy, holy is The Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. 

Mile 8 – El Simchath Gili – My Exceeding Joy. God IS my joy. I delight in Him, in the joy of His presence. His joy is my strength. He gives me the joy of seeing beauty like this as I crest a hill. 

I’m having a great race and am on track for a big PR if I can just keep doing what I’m doing–not even working hard. 

Mile 9 – Elohim Ozer Li – My Helper. 

As I was meditating on God being my help, something happened. The knee pain that had faded to nothing by mile 6 came back with a vengeance, and I felt like someone hit my knee with a sledgehammer. I prayed and texted mom. Help was on the way. 

Mile 10 – Jehovah-Ahavah – Love. God IS love. It is not within His nature to withhold any good thing. 

As I hobbled along, barely able to walk, much less run, a girl came alongside me to render aid. She took time out of her race to offer me Advil and a few words of encouragement. As she took off again, I shouted, “God bless you to make up the time!” To which she replied, “Oh, don’t worry about it. This is my 54th marathon. I don’t care about time anymore!”  🙂

Mile 11 – Jehovah-Checed – Merciful. God who is kind, loving, compassionate, and courteous. Offering relief and not what our sins deserve. God who is tender and gentle. 

I continued to pray for God to have mercy on me and relieve the pain in my aching knee and empower me to run. I knew slowing down had cost me the PR, but I still wanted to finish on my own two feet. 

Mile 12 – Jehovah El Emeth – Truth. Jesus IS the Truth. 

I prayed for right thinking and better, deeper understanding of Him, His ways, myself, and even correct thoughts about the race. 

Mile 13 – Jehovah-Goelekh – Redeemer. He is the One who reclaims what was lost and turns bad to good. 

Knee pain subsided, and gratefully, I was able to resume running my best. 

Mile 14 – Jehovah-Jireh – Provider. God provides EVERYTHING I need out of His glorious riches. His grace is sufficient. I lack nothing that I need. He provides abundantly. 

After all, He had already provided Advil and the strength to keep going! 

Mile 15 – Jehovah-Kabod – Glory. God whose glory shines radiantly. Whose glory is weighty. Whose glory filled the temple and was so thick nobody could take it! 

Mile 16 – Jehovah Kadesh – Holy & Jehovah-Mekaddesh – Sanctification. God who is pure. Perfect. Completely and totally good. Who is making me like Him. He is my righteousness (Jehovah-Tsidkenu). Enduring through training and racing is part of the process of sanctification. 

I passed Bridal Veil Falls, one of the best spots I found in Utah. The name drew me into thinking about the intimacy and bliss of being the bride of Christ. 

Mile 17 – Jehovah-Machsi – Refuge. God is my refuge and shelter. He hides me under His wing, in His shadow. I cling to Him as my safe place, especially when I face difficulties. 

After the knee thing made trying to PR a non-issue, I had given myself permission to walk the uphills, which I learned after the race was far more than I guessed by looking at the elevation profile or even being on the course. (Many of the hills went up and around curves, so it was deceptive because you didn’t see the whole hill at once.) I had been so focused on the net 1700 ft drop that I didn’t realize that was the net of a 2700 ft downhill and 1000 ft of climbing! But I really enjoyed the downhills. I kept telling myself, “Let the course do the work.” Gravity was my friend. 🙂

Mile 18 – Jehovah-El Olam – Eternal.  The God who is forever. The self-creating One. Who is outside of time. Who was before time was. The Alpha and Omega. I will spend eternity with Him! 

Two-thirds of the way through the race and the knee incident behind me, I couldn’t believe I felt so good that deep in the race! It was amazing! 

Mile 19 – Jehovah-Ori (Owr) – Light. The light that was there before He spoke light into being. There is no darkness in Him. He is radiant, glowing. His light shines on and through me. 

Running through the canyon. Almost done with the 20-mile “warmup” before the final 10K through town. 

Mile 20 – Jehovah-Rapha – Healing. His very nature is healing. By Jesus’ stripes I am healed. He was disfigured beyond recognition to purchase healing for me. Soothing. Comforting. Restoring to function according to original design. 

I thanked Him for the healing to make it this far and prayed for continued healing for all the parts that have given me trouble. That my body would function according to His design and for His glory. 

Mile 21 – Jehovah-Sali – Rock. Solid. Dependable. As solid as the rocks and mountains that surrounded me. You’d have better luck moving mountains than God. I can always count on Him. 

Mile 22 – Jehovah-Shalom – Peace. Peace that destroys chaos. Calm. He is the One who calms the storms and by His very presence gives us peace that passes understanding in the midst of them.

The temperature, which had been 46 at the start of the race, was now over 70. Three or four times, I stopped at aid stations long enough to fill the water bottle I had on my belt because a sip every couple of miles wasn’t cutting it. 

In addition, my calves were cramping. I knew downhill would take its toll on my quads, so I had been intentional about strengthening them. However, I failed to anticipate the cumulative effect on my calves of keeping my toes up, and I suspect all that dorsiflexion caught up with me. I allowed myself to walk more, but some of the transitions were beyond tough because of the cramping.

Mile 23 – Jehovah-Rohi – Shepherd & Jehovah-Roi – the One who sees.

I prayed the 23rd Psalm for this mile, line by line. It was fantastic, especially as it was getting harder to continue.  

At this point, I kept doing math…how fast do I have to go to keep it under 5 hours? It was kind of like when I was in school and got as many A’s as I could in the beginning of the semester, hoping I could go into the final knowing that even if I failed, I’d still pass the class. I was glad I’d had a strong first half. I knew I still needed to run some down the stretch (because I was walking a little funny and not as fast as normal!), but I knew I could make it even if I walked most of the way. 

One of my race goals was to encourage someone every mile, and as I saw others also struggling, I reminded them we still had a shot at being under 5.  This was a total newsflash to one fella, who picked it up with new life in his legs when he realized that!

Mile 24 – Jehovah-Shamah – The Lord is there. He is Emmanuel. God with me. 

My first thought when I started cramping was that perhaps I’d made a mistake in not drinking the sports drink, relying solely on my Electrolyte Fuel System (EFS) gel for electrolytes. So I started drinking Powerade…and grabbed an Otter Pop when one was handed to me. (The corollary to “nothing new on race day” is “unless you feel like you’re about to die and you think it might help.”) It was cool and refreshing, a real God-send! 

Mile 25 – Jehovah-Tsaba – Warrior. God who fights for me and puts His no-quit warrior Spirit in me! 

Just. Keep. Going.

Don’t give up…Pain is weakness leaving the body…Pain is temporary.  Pride is forever…

Mile 26 – Jehovah-Uzzi – Strength. God is my strength. His strength is infinite.

As I approached mile 26, “A Spoonful of Sugar” came on my playlist–quite fitting with the Pain You Enjoy theme–and I sang along (out loud!) as I approached the finish line! 

Mile 26.2 – Jehovah-Nissi – Banner. God is my victory, and His banner over me is love! 

In scripture, the name Jehovah-Nissi is used during the battle that Joshua fought while Moses was on the mountain, raising his hands. When he got tired, he needed help holding them up. 

Likewise, shortly after crossing the finish line, I collapsed into the arms of 2 Red Cross volunteers and needed help standing up. Both legs seized up and gave out on me at the same time. They helped me to the medical tent (again!), where they Saran wrapped ice to my knees. 

One of the best things about this race is that thanks to better fueling, I was more in my right mind than after any previous marathon (though those who heard me singing Mary Poppins might have questioned that!). My friend Heather met me with flowers and was an angel to go get my drop bag (with massage stick!) while one of the volunteers fetched me some chocolate milk. 

After a brief recovery, I was able to enjoy the post-race festivities, including the best creamsicle of my life and a quick massage.

The next stop was Sonic with Heather and her family.  I downed a delicious double cheeseburger without thinking twice! Yum!

It was a great race, even though it was tough down the stretch.  I didn’t PR, but I DID improve my average.  The pain faded (after a couple days of walking like a zombie because my quads–which were fine on race day–were killing me after!), but the memories and rewards remain.  🙂