The Sydney City to Surf is a 14.2km fun run that winds its way from the centre of the city to South Head and then back to Bondi Beach. It’s a cultural phenomenon every August that attracts over 75,000 participants each year; from the serious international runners, to mum’s pushing strollers and people in dress ups. The start is staggered into ranked groups, with the fastest runners starIng first and the walkers and partiers starIng in the last group. For those starIng in the middle of the pack the start is a huge crush of bodies shuffling for the first kilometre or two before you can actually stride out…along the way people stand and cheer; give out water; play music or just words of encouragement….because everyone starts with the same goal. To finish!
Two hours earlier in chill of the dawn light parIcipants congregate in their allocated areas, huddling against the cold or wet, sitting on the hard road to rest their legs…then in anticipation of the start people begin to strip off old clothing and discard it by the side (or in the trees)…and stretch. Then when the gun goes off there’s a shout of excitement as the mass begins to move, slowly at first…and then finally into a rhythm as they pound the pavement towards the finish.
For 6 kilometres you weave through the crowd, along undulating terrain to the bottom of a 3 kilometre hill dubbed ‘heart break hill’. For months you have diligently focused on training for this hill and stride confidently at first up the iniIal incline, surprised at every bend that conInues to rise relentlessly against the human tide. Gradually you notice that many people have slowed to a walk, apparently unprepared for the challenge looking defeated and distressed. But then, just as your lungs are screaming for air you reach the summit and are flooded with relief, only to realise that the race is far from finished.
How easy it is to focus all our attention on ‘heart break hill’ and forget about the ultimate goal – to reach the finish. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I press on to the goal to reach the prize for which God has called me heavenward”…his goal was to know Jesus and the power of his resurrecIon (v10). He knew that all that had happened up unIl now was only the preliminaries; all the successes, all the failures; all the trials, all the lessons; were only the beginning – because there was so much more to learn; so much more to know; so much more to experience!
Paul often used sporIng metaphors to encourage ChrisIans to keep the faith; to not get side tracked or lose focus; but to be focused on the end goal. Towards the end of his life he says in Acts 20:24 that his only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus Christ had given him – the task of testifying to the good news of the gospel of grace.
Like Paul we need to be reminded of the journey that we are on…a mass of humanity following in the footsteps of Christ. Like the City to Surf (like it says in Hebrews 12:1-3) are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on. We too must make every effort to not allow ourselves to be weighed down by excess baggage….but to run with perseverance the race marked out before us – with our minds fixed on Jesus…to the finish!