But there was something else on my mind as I chugged along, on a Tuesday evening. I run with a bunch of people and we get split into six or seven groups, dependent on our speed. I have progressed slowly and steadily, to a point where I feel comfortable.
I can churn out a 6 mile run and do it in probably 1 hour 15 minutes. I have been comfortable, secure, even a little cosy in this mode of running my race as I choose; not giving too much and not pushing too much. I had reached my own mini-plateau.
In this moment of lycra-clad confusion, God began to speak to me; I felt him say "run to the front". "Run to the front" – and again – "run to the front". I initially resisted, as I had been struggling with a dual mindset.
The first – not appearing to try too hard or wanting to make it look like I had made any effort at all; to be effortlessly and naturally brilliant without even trying. The second – I did not belong at the front. I am not a winner and I do not suit being called "fast", "quick" or "able". I belong at the back. Being effortlessly amazing whilst also expecting nothing from yourself can be a little confusing!
I decided, in that moment, to press on and run anyway. I started to pump my legs a bit and I could sense that others were wondering, "what is going on?" I ignored them and carried on. Eventually I caught up with the leader of our group and remained with that person. I was at the front. I managed to maintain an even pace, but then other people started to crowd in on me. I felt like I was losing my place. I started to panic a little, but God reminded me to keep going.
So I started – in a non-aggressive way – to keep pace and compete. It felt really, really unnatural. It felt like I should not have to do this; I am running, for pleasure, on a Tuesday night and not competing for the Olympics. But then the thought struck me – is there pleasure to be had in competing and achieving?
I have to be honest. Competition has not been my thing. I have always expected to come last. I have always expected to fall short. My school scores were not, what you would call, outstanding and from that, I have thought of myself as being an underachiever. And yet, in this small way, I felt God was showing me what he thought of competition and that the reality is that I can compete. I can find joy and excitement and challenge in competing with others and achieving something. I can even get to the front of my group.
I have to say that at the end of the run, my muscles ached! But I was at the front and remained there till the end. All the time, I felt God's presence with me. It was almost as though he was speaking to me deeply through this one act of running; that in life, we can begin to run to the front, we can begin to press, we can stop ourselves lapsing into a culture of studied and nonchalant underachievement. We can do better.
In the Bible, Paul describes life as a race and he exhorts us to forget what is past and to strive onwards. The Bible also talks about us "outdoing" each other in righteousness. This is striking. The Bible is calling us to have a competition with our Christian brothers on how to be more holy, more in love with Jesus, more driven and ambitious and competitive to reach and grab on to the holy prize which Christ won for us, all those years ago. This is not a Gospel of 'works' rather an exhortation in living for Christ (Sanctification if you like big theological words).
That challenges me on every mediocre, average and non-committal gesture I make towards making-do and not trying harder. What would the world look like, if people, if businesses, if nations competed on how to do good to one another? How would we respond? What would it feel like?
I am not saying that life is a competition. It is undoubtedly a journey and a battle and a storm and a concert of multi-layered complexity. But maybe; competition – striving to be more like Christ, for more of our Father and for more Kingdom on earth – is the elusive golden thread that runs through it.
Amanda Robinson is originally from The Lake District in the UK where her sister Rosie resides. Amanda works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries. She is also working on fighting her FOMO and doing less. Amanda wrote this article from London when on holidays.(PSI would like to see Rosie become a regular writer)
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at