You Can’t Keep Up This Pace

Life is more of a marathon than a sprint; learning to pace oneself for the marathon is important

This makes me think of John Owen, one of my favorite theologians from church history. It’s widely reported that when Owen was young he allowed himself a mere 4 hours of sleep a night. As you would expect this affected his health negatively. Later in life, when on his sick-bed, an older Owen regretted those hours of rest that he missed as a younger man. Wisdom listens to those who love them and those who are laps ahead of them. I’m thankful for both and am already benefitting from the changes.


Some years ago I was serious about distance running. I meticulously planned my meals, training, and schedule in order to achieve my goals. After a long season of training I laced them up and lined up for a marathon. At the start I took off on pure adrenaline. I ran with excitement passing many people and feeling like I was in the Olympics or something. The street was filled with onlookers and there was music. It was excellent. The only problem was I never slowed down. Like a labrador in an open field I just ran hard for several miles. Then something unexpected happened. At about mile 14 I began to feel irritation in my hips and knees. Instead of slowing down I just winced through it. By mile 18 I was grimacing. By mile 22 I felt like I was in a vice. I had foolishly outrun my ability and my body was paying the price.

This incident has become instructive for me of late. For years I have been privileged to speak to men who seem to take on too much work and go too hard. They are always running on fumes and rarely feel like they are doing their best in a particular area. They regret their busyness. I look back to many conversations where I’ve tried to help guys see their priorities, build a reasonable plan, and some accountability to make it happen. I’ve even used the analogy of life being a marathon and not a sprint. What’s more, I’ve even used my misplaced running zeal as an example of what could happen if they don’t rein some things in.

The only problem was, I never listened to the advice.

I have been in full-time ministry for just over 10 years now. Prior to that I worked full-time, went to college, and was an intern in a church. Also, my wife and I have six kids. This is a full plate. And, it has been a full plate for years. My philosophy from the beginning has been that I will sacrifice personal things (recreation, entertainment, professional pursuits, and even sleep) in order to spend time with my family, read my Bible, and be a disciplined, godly man. Over the years this resulted in me averaging around 6 hours of sleep per night. The 4:00 am alarm would go off every morning regardless of what time I set it in the evening. I look back at the last 15 years to when I was a relatively new Christian at 24 and marvel at everything. I would never trade any of it for anything.

At the same time I’ve realize that it cannot continue at this clip…. Here are some of the areas I’ve made adjustments or recommitments to:

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