Last weekend I ran the Kodiak Ultramarathon 50k in Big Bear California with some friends who are apparently just as crazy as I am! This was not my first, or longest trail race, but it was my first at 8,000 ft of elevation. What the course lacks in oxygen, though, it more than makes up for in beauty. Big Bear has got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. (I actually did a short video of the race if you would like to check out some of the views. You can watch it here.)
Running 32 miles through the woods (actually walking a lot too if we are being honest) is definitely a challenge but one that most people could complete if they really worked at it. Training, good shoes, friends, and a little determination will take you much further than you might think possible. That being said, it’s crazy what you think about when you are low on oxygen and high on fatigue!
Around the halfway mark of this particular course is the most difficult climb of entire 50 kilometers. Starting at less than 6,500 ft in elevation this particular section of trail goes up to almost 8,000 ft in a little over 3 miles. The trail is extremely narrow and in several spots consists of sand that spills onto the hillside a few feet from the path. Needless to say, this is a very difficult climb requiring focus and an unwavering commitment to putting one foot in front of the other. So what was I thinking about while trudging up this hill?
In addition to questioning my current life choices, I was thinking about Momentum. It’s crazy that on the slowest part of the trail I would think about momentum, but I observed something interesting while making my way to the top. I was moving a slow as possible but knew that if I stopped I would have a hard time starting again. So I just kept moving. Not running-moving. Not even walking really-just moving. And every few minutes I would pass someone who wasn’t. And even though those in front of me had been moving faster than me all morning, when they stopped and I passed them, I never saw them again.
None of that is intended to be be critical, by the way. I firmly believe that in a race of this kind the goal is to finish however you need to. My point, though, is this:
I was building momentum simply because I did not stop!
We all want to experience momentum in our lives but somehow think that momentum = speed or is reserved for the fastest and most capable among us. Momentum, whether on a trail in California, or in business, or in relationships, is not about speed. Which is great and means that any of us can, if we are willing to put in the work, begin to develop momentum in our lives.
As I thought about this (I had a lot of time to think), my mind went to Paul the Apostle. Somewhere in his mid 40’s he gave his life to Christ and became a preacher and missionary. He was also used by the Holy Spirit to pen much of the New Testament and most of what we really know about Christianity and the Gospel. And yet, toward the end of his life he wrote these words:
Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
2Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
These thoughts are reflected as an instruction to Christians in Hebrews:
Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Paul the Apostle was not moving particularly fast and may have, if he looked at wasted years of his life and struggles before his martyrdom, concluded that he made very little progress. But today, more than 2,000 years later, the momentum that started to build through his life impacts billions around the world.
So what does the life of Paul, and a trail running anecdote, teach us about Momentum?
1. Momentum is not about speed-It is about Movement
Don’t disqualify yourself because you feel like it is too late or you can’t move very fast. Momentum comes from movement. So start moving.
2. Momentum is not only about movement-It is about Movement in the Right Direction
But, not all movement is created equal. I have written about this before, but you need to make sure you are moving in the right direction. That is what Hebrews 12:1-3 above is all about. You don’t have to move fast, but move in the direction that God has laid out for you.
3. Momentum is not about Success-It is about Progress
Don’t evaluate you movement (and ability to create momentum) based on YOUR measure of success. Evaluate based on whether or not you are moving in the direction that God wants you to move. That is all that Paul was focused on and that should be what you focus on.
4. Progress leads to Success if you are moving in the right direction.
This is a byproduct. You can’t control success. You can, however, control moving forward in the right direction every day. Progress will lead to God’s measure of success as long as you don’t stop moving.
5. Building Momentum is not about you-that’s too short sighted for real Momentum. Momentum is about begins (or continues) with you but benefits those coming behind you.
This really is a key. Don’t think of momentum only as a tool to get what you want or feel like you need. Work to build momentum so that those coming behind you can do more than you as they ride your momentum forward. Momentum building really is about Legacy building.
What is momentum? It’s movement in the right direction as determined by God. And momentum, God directed momentum, will allow you to see and experience things that you never thought possible.
You don’t have to be fast. Just don’t stop moving forward!