“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

When you commit to becoming a runner, there are any number of things that can get in your way.   The experience can be more difficult than it needs to be and can cause you to question your decision to attempt running at all.  Most of these negative experiences can be traced to choices that the runner could have avoided simply by beginning correctly and being satisfied with the stride of a beginner.  

Another common mistake is starting out too quickly.  Runners try to run before they can jog.  After all, it’s just running.  We’ve all done that since we were little, how hard can it be?  If you start at a race pace instead of a workout pace and attempt to run much farther than you are in condition to go, the next day will not be a pleasant one.  Exhaustion and soreness will tempt you to give up before really getting started.

The next pitfall is comes when choosing your first race.  You may condition in an appropriate manner, but in your excitement don’t start looking for that first big race too soon.  Racing and working out are very different.  Many a runner who has attempted the big race before being properly trained becomes discouraged.

Finally, know your limits.  I’ve seen runners who have trained well, chosen a good first race, but gets caught up in the moment.  They find themselves with the front pack of runners after the first half mile only to realize that there are several more miles to run at that pace.  They end up at the back of the pack because of exhaustion from going out too fast.  This can be a great discouragement to a novice runner.

A major part of hitting your stride is accurately assessing your current abilities and knowing yourself as a runner. Your stride changes as you progress.  It can change from race to race depending on the course, the weather, even your mood.  A runner who is able to hit his stride in a race knows how to run within his abilities.

In the same way many people who are new to ministry set themselves up for frustration and feelings of inadequacy by decisions they made in the beginning stages of their endeavor.  Like the runner, they may think they have made a wrong choice of vocation and really aren’t cut out for the race.

I advise the new in ministry to learn yourself and your current abilities.  Don’t be tempted to think that ministry looks so easy that anyone can just jump into full stride without working up to it.  Going to college gave you the tools and the knowledge, but it didn’t give you the conditioning.  It is easy to get discouraged if you try to hit a race pace when you first begin instead of staring at a jog.

Start out slowly and simply.  Participate in conditioning events and don’t be discouraged if they seem overwhelming at first. 

Finally, don’t try to be the pace setter in your first events.  Run within your abilities as a novice and find your beginning stride.

I advise the experienced among us to keep an eye out for the newbies.  Enable them to understand their limits and condition themselves properly.  Like a cross country coach, help them learn their limits so they can become stronger runners.  It won’t help to encourage them to participate beyond their conditioning.  Assist them as they learn to know themselves and settle into their stride.  Learning to set the correct stride will help them avoid the regretful question: “What was I thinking?