First let me clarify: I don’t do Iron Mans; I do sprint triathlons. These consist of anywhere from:
- Half mile to a mile swim
- 12-24 mile mountain biking
- 4-6 mile trail run.
It’s hard to exercise without a goal, so for my daily exercise I set the goal of trying to do a couple triathlons per year. But it’s not simply about having a goal. Running triathlons teaches and reminds me of important things:
All great things come in threes, right? The perfect unity and diversity of our triune God is a divine wonder that we should reflect on whenever we see triune patterns in this world (check out my “3 Books On The Trinity” post here).
Hilarity & Humility
Doing a triathlon always physically humbles me, no matter how much I train. I leave the race feeling smaller than when I began. Last year I almost needed an IV at the Xterra Trail Run in Alabama because I hadn’t trained enough. And in every triathlon, as soon as I start swimming I feel like I might drown. My goal is always to finish in the top half — Sometimes I make it and sometimes I don’t. Triathlons are a great way to remind me of my limitations, and help me to not think too highly of myself.
A race is never just about the race. You’re not doing it alone. The joy comes from people I prepare and go to the race with, and talk about it with afterwards. We experience camaraderie and the kind of bonding that happens when you go through something extraordinary with others. We were created for community; doing triathlons with others is a good reminder and display of this gospel truth.
Training is a constant reminder that all good things require discipline and sacrifice. As Paul said,
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. — 1 Timothy 4:8
One value of physical training is the reminder of the need to be disciplined in what we do. It helps me see the importance of discipline and sacrifice. The book Triathlon Training In Four Hours A Week has been a big help in my training. I don’t have a great deal of free time, and I’m sure you don’t either. But four hours a week? That is doable.
With training comes glory. Even when I finish in the bottom half of a triathlon there is a certain glory in just finishing. It’s the glory of the feast that comes afterward, the celebration with my family. This Christian race is similar. God calls us to finish the race.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. — Acts 20:24
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. — 2 Timothy 4:7
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, — Hebrews 12:1
“Triathlon” image by Pieter Smit, used via Creative Commons license