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You don’t have to be a long-distance runner to learn some life lessons from Adam Monke.

Adam, who’s from Nickerson, recently completed the Leadville Trail 100 Run — a 100-mile ultramarathon in the Colorado Rockies.

He ran in elevations ranging from 9,200 to 12,600 feet on a tough-terrain course that fewer than half of the runners even finish.

For someone like me — who can’t imagine running more than three city blocks — Adam’s accomplishment is amazing.

Adam played football in high school and college. In 2008, he graduated from college and two years later was playing flag football when he got hurt.

He broke a lower leg bone, dislocated his knee and tore ligaments.

Adam’s leg was so swollen surgeons had to wait a week to operate.

As a collegiate athlete, Adam had been able to do physically pretty much whatever he wanted.

After the accident, Adam couldn’t put on his own pants or pull a sock on a cold foot.

That would difficult for someone like me, who’s admittedly non-athletic, but it must have been really tough for him.

Adam says he threw a pity party for himself for a couple months, but began to recover.

He started getting back in shape by running.

“You start small,” he says. “At first, it was around the block and then a mile or two — and before you know it you’re really logging some true miles.”

He began running in shorter races, working up to a half marathon and then a marathon.

A marathon is 26.2 miles.

Then he heard about 100-mile runs.

He started increasing his mileage until he was running 150 miles a week.

Just the sound of that makes me want to sit down.

But since 2015, he’s run three to six 100-mile races per year.

In August, he ran the challenging Leadville run.

Besides running in a high altitude, the ultramarathon included rugged terrain and some river crossings.

And then there’s Hope Pass, which has an elevation that reaches to 12,600 feet.

Adam crossed over it en route to the course’s halfway point — and again on the way back.

Hope Pass was the toughest part of the course.

“You’re standing at Twin Lakes and you look up at a mountain that’s almost 13,000 feet and you know you have to go up and over that thing twice — that’s pretty tough,” he said.

How did he do it?

“You don’t do math,” he said.

That means he wouldn’t think about having run only 1 mile and having 99 left to go.

“One step at a time,” he said. “You can’t overthink it. You’ve got to run 1 mile at a time. You can’t run all 100 of them at once. You put your head down and go for it.”

OK. Stop a minute.

Couldn’t this apply to some of our own situations?

We may not be runners, but how many of us are counting something?

We’re counting the days until we finish a demanding project at work.

Or the years until we’re out of debt.

Or the years before we can retire.

Maybe we’ve been waiting a long time to finish college, get married, have a child or buy a house.

And the realization of our dreams seems so far away that we become weary, discouraged and — sometimes — just mad.

Maybe that’s when—like Adam – we must quit doing the math and just keep going.

Sometimes facing the future can be sad and scary as we:

  • Try to figure what to do after a job loss or the end of a career.
  • Try to adapt to life after a debilitating illness or injury.
  • Look ahead to years without a loved one who has died.

I like it when Adam says he must take one step at a time.

Isn’t that true of life in general?

I’ve heard recovering alcoholics talk about taking one day at a time.

When my husband died, a young nurse told me what she’d learned to do after the death of her father:

“Just put one foot in front of the other.”

That was 6 ½ years ago and I’ve followed the “one-day-at-a-time, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other” advice ever since.

When I interviewed him for a story, Adam also talked about pain — something he had a lot of after his accident.

As a runner, he knows pain and this is what he says.

“You learn a lot from pain — the ability to overcome that pain or work through it, go to different places in your mind, emotionally and spiritually, it makes you a better person,” Adam says.

Adam says running and the pain that accompanies it empowers him.

“It tears down the barriers. It gives me a platform to dream and set big goals and work toward achieving them. It challenges me. It allows me to be brave and it teaches me to refuse to give up — even when there are obstacles in the way,” he says.

Wow.

I’ve never thought of running or pain like that.

But I think the Apostle Paul may have followed a similar line of thought.

Paul faced so much danger, hardship and pain in his ministry.

Yet look what he writes to the Corinthians.

“I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Even before that, Paul talks about the self-discipline he incorporates as he strives to share the Gospel of Christ.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize,” Paul writes. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Did you catch that?

Paul knows the eternal reward that lies ahead so he keeps going with purpose.

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air,” he writes.

Wait a minute.

You might think that I don’t know what you’ve been through.

Or the pain you’ve faced.

Or what lies ahead for you.

And you’re right.

I probably don’t and most other people don’t either.

Years ago, I was taught never to compare grief — because no two people, relationships or circumstances are the same.

I think that’s true in many situations, not just grief.

But I — and many other people — have found great comfort in knowing how much Jesus suffered and how he can understand our pain — and be there for us 24 hours a day — like nobody else.

On earth, Jesus knew what it was to persevere.

And as Christians, we must keep our eyes on Jesus as we face the long races of our lives — and just keep going.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews (New Living Translation) says:

“….And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

“Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”

Most of us will never run a 100-mile race like Adam, but we have races that can seem long and wearying.

Maybe that’s when we can look to a runner for inspiration.

And certainly to our Lord Jesus.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.

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