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The On Being Project

I Want to Be God’s Feet When I Run — Christy Marvin

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Christy Marvin is a self-described “mountain runnin’ mama.” She’s the mother of three boys all of whom compete in mountain races — including her 4-year-old — just like Christy and her husband, Ben. Mountain racing is running at its extreme — we’re talking about climbing up cliffs, running through mud and snow — and yet Christy excels in these terrains. She’s won six different Alaska mountain races. For Christy, running is a spiritual practice.

My name is Christy Marvin. I’m 34 years old and I live in Palmer, Alaska but grew up in Glennallen, Alaska.

My first memory of running is out-running my older brother. One of his forms of entertainment when I was a child was to just tease, torment, torture in any way that he could and it didn’t take me very long to figure out that I could out-run him. So probably about the time I was five years old I started hitting the streets to get away from him.

When I was in fifth grade, as a little girl I knew that I was fast, but I didn’t really know how fast. And we had a little track and field day at our school. And I signed up for every single race and right before the start of every one of them, I scratched, because the fear of losing that race was greater than any dream that I had of winning. And it wasn’t until the following year in sixth grade, when I joined the track team, that I found I could be successful at running and that it could be something that I could really enjoy and not worry so much about the pressure. So from about sixth grade on, I have run pretty consistently over the years and really got into racing once I discovered that I did actually have a talent in it.

When you’re a mom and you’re at home, the quickest way to get your child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable. So for me to connect with God on a real one-on-one basis and undistracted when I’m at home and I have three screaming children running around the house, it doesn’t really happen.

So my running time is my alone time. And it is my time when I rejuvenate my mind and my body and when I really do feel like I not only come back from my runs with what they call a runner’s high, I come back with a spiritual high as well because the whole time that I’m out there running I’m praying and I’m talking to God and I’m asking him to help me in all different walks of my life: help to be a better wife and a better mother. And particularly when I’m competing, I do find what I call power verses that I look for before every race that I run and I really think on those and I commit them to memory so that I can pull on them and I can call on them when I reach those points in the race when I feel weak and I don’t feel like I can do it on my own and I feel like I need a greater strength and power. That’s when I call on God and He gives me that strength.

Second Chronicles, chapter 32, verses 7 to 8 says, “Be strong and courageous for there’s greater power with us than with Him. With Him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” There’s some in Psalms: Psalms 46, 1 to 3 says, “God is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the Earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” One that I even used in this last Mount Marathon was Mark 9:23, “That all things are possible for those who believe.”

The races I absolutely do get wrapped up in the competition and I do want to win when I step on the starting line. I don’t just go at it from the perspective of another time of prayer and meditation. I mean, I’m out there to compete, but I absolutely know that I cannot do it on my own and that I cannot even begin to push myself to the extent that God can help me to push myself. Two years ago in Mount Marathon when I came down to the bottom of the mountain, my legs felt like noodles. They felt like they were going to buckle. Everything in your body is hurting at that point. Sometimes when the pain gets to be too much, I literally call on God and I just say that, “You know, Jesus, you have to carry me, you know, all the way home, because I feel too weak on my own and I just need you to pull me through.”

I knew that he hadn’t brought me this far to see me fail now and that I really just needed to act out all of that training and all of the preparation that together we had done, through those many hours spent on the trails and up mountains and over rivers. I just needed to dig and I needed to call on every ounce of strength that I had left.

Creating Our Own Lives is a podcast, each week asking a different person to think through how they create their lives. Each series explores topics such as humor as a tool for survival, movies as church, and running as a spiritual practice. Subscribe on iTunes and, if you enjoy it, please leave a rating and your feedback.

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