If I had to run a marathon, I’d choose The Snowdonia Marathon. This year’s race happened yesterday and is unlike any city marathon. The scenery is spectacular, the terrain formidable, and the long and steep ups and downs a test of character, strength and endurance. The route encircles Wales’ highest mountain and, unlike most city marathons, involves a total climb of 838 metres (2749 feet) over its 26.2 miles.
This particular marathon mirrors life’s marathon. We start with enthusiasm, puff our way up challenging roads, stop to admire views from high spots in our lives, then plunge deep down into valleys of despair, illness or grief. Some parts of life’s marathon are more steady, neither nasty nor notable. Then comes another uphill part, and so on.
John Bunyan, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, describes the ups and downs that Pilgrim faces on his way “From This world to That which is to come.” Readers discover “his setting out, his dangerous journey, and safe arrival at the Desired Country.”
Whether or not we’re marathon runners in London or Snowdonia or any other marathon place, we’re all participants in the marathon of life. How do we face it? How do we prepare? How are we sustained? How are we at perseverance? The characters in Pilgrim’s Progress are ordinary people striving to hold onto their beliefs in an often hostile and uncomprehending world. The book’s message is as relevant now as it was when published in 1678. For the Christian of any era, words from Hebrews are a spur: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”