Running the Race

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

~ Hebrews 12:1-2

Sarah and VictoriaThis weekend I ran my third half-marathon, but my first since baby Zoë has been in the picture. It took me a long time to commit to doing this race this time around. When I started running again, it was barely what my friend, Heather, dubbed “wogging” – somewhere between walking and jogging. I would only be able to “wog” for about 2 minutes and then I would walk for 2, or 3… or 4 minutes. In the early stages I wouldn’t even write it down. Gradually my body began to recover, and I pushed the ratios down until I was mostly running and only occasionally walking. But by the time we got to race day, I still hadn’t run for more than 5 kms without taking a little walking break.

In long-distance running, the training plan typically takes you to within five kilometers of your actual race distance. I found myself extra nervous about racing the half marathon because even with my little walk breaks, I hadn’t yet come close to running the race distance. Would my body hold out?




That’s a lot like life, isn’t it? The author of the book of Hebrews exhorts us to “…run with endurance the race that is set before us”. Life certainly is a marathon, not a sprint. We definitely don’t have the privilege of knowing what it will be like to run the whole distance ahead of time! Every definition of ‘endurance’ that I looked up mentioned the capacity to withstand pain, unpleasant things, difficulty or hardship “without giving way.” It doesn’t mean to simply let life take its own course and push us off ours.

The next key element in Hebrews 1:1-2 is that we keep “looking to Jesus”. Indeed, Jesus is the finish line. Right after the famous “Golden Rule” is articulated in the Book of Matthew, Jesus says, “…the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14) Not only does this race require endurance, it requires a map and a compass because the racecourse itself is hard to find!   By His grace, we have been given both of these things: the Bible and the Holy Spirit to help us keep on track.

Lastly, Jesus is described as the “perfecter of our faith”. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can get pretty disgruntled that the race seems to be so long and hard. Sometimes it really bugs me that the course isn’t obvious, and I resent the obstacles that are in my way. I long to see the finish line, yet fear how close I might be to it at the same time. But notice especially that we are not the perfecters of our own faith, Jesus is. Our job is to run and to run with endurance… His job is to perfect. AMEN!

We do have one other responsibility, however, and that is to “set aside every weight, and sin which clings closely”. Again, this is a perfect racing analogy. In an effort to be as fast as possible, all racers across many sports will remove any extra clothing and jewelry, and if they use equipment, will make sure that equipment is as legally light as possible.   Are you as light as possible in your spiritual life? Or are you running the race with all of your baggage that you can’t let go of?

Fortunately for us, “…the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

I urge you to free up your arms and feet for this race, and set aside anything that is slowing you down. There is freedom to be found in the Lord, and as this freedom is found we are being transformed!

PS- My friend and I finished the race. We didn’t even walk once, and we shaved 3 minutes off our personal best times from 2013!

There Was Also Rugby

When I share the part of my story about how I came into the sport of rowing, I often say that I chose rowing because “it was the only varsity sport that had a novice team.” (Meaning, you could join without having any previous experience.) Well… watching the Olympics this week reminded me that that’s not quite the whole story. It wasn’t the only varsity sport you could join without any experience.

There was also rugby.

canada-faces-britain-in-bronze-medal-match-in-women-s-rugby-sevens-event-article-image-0I actually spent some time debating with my new friends which team I should try out for. Some of them even tried to convince me I’d be good at rugby. Can you imagine how different my life would have been? I am so NOT a rugby player. But even then, the rough-and-tumble side of the sport held a certain appeal, as I (briefly) fantasized about me crashing into other girls and letting my alter-ego take the field. Or pitch. Or whatever it’s called. I can only imagine this adventure ending with a broken nose, or worse, some broken teeth (which my mom always reminds me, cost $6,000.) And then that probably would have been it.

Watching our Canadian women’s rugby sevens team compete really drilled that home. What an incredible group of hard-hitting girls!




At the same time I was watching rugby sevens make its debut at the 2016 Olympics, I was also reading the book of Jeremiah. I inevitably was reminded of the oft-quoted verse, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare [other translations say ‘good’ or ‘peace’] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29.11, ESV)

It struck me that God is planning our lives out and orchestrating all of our options for us everyday. I’m sure we only realize it a small fraction of the times that He masterfully guides our paths – like steering me away from the rugby team and to rowing.

I also remember an experience I had in 2008, at a conference put on by the Canadian Olympic Committee to help us all get to know each other and mentally prepare before heading off to China. I was headed down to the gym with some teammates, and Kyle Shewfelt, already an Olympic gold medalist from the 2004 Olympics, looked at me clutching my weights program. He asked, “Do you have a coach that plans all that for you? Man, I wish I had something like that!” I couldn’t believe it.

Well, God is that type of coach. He is your strength coach, but also your sports psychologist and your nutritionist (He feeds the sparrows, so He can feed you! [Matt. 6.26]) He has planned all of the details of your life. He knows when things are going to go well, and when you are going to face hurdles.

But you know what? He is also your equipment specialist. He has given you all of the things you need to succeed – and He cares that you have a hope and a future.

If you’re having trouble finding your equipment – if your quiver feels like it’s running out of arrows, or you’re fading in the final leg of your race, take a look at the following verses: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29.12-13, ESV)

If you’re an athlete, you probably already know what it’s like to train with all of your heart, soul and mind. What if we sought God that way too?

The Story Behind the Book

2016will mark the first summer Olympics that I will not be training for another chance at Olympic gold. I am sitting on my couch at home, with my 3-month-old daughter, Zoë, asleep in my arms. The Olympics are coming, and my Facebook news feed is filling up with notices of competitions and updates from all my friends who are still competing. I’m starting to dream about rowing, about competing. I fantasize about making a come back, maybe in a different sport this time, and do the math about my age and the likelihood of that happening.

Sometimes I feel like I will never, ever get over it, and I just want to be free from those thoughts and from my own experiences. Yet God has used this all tremendously in my life, and as I sit on this couch, suddenly His voice cuts through my spinning thoughts, and I hear Him louder than I have in a long time.

“Are you willing to stop striving? You are already everything I want you to be. I created you! I knit you together in your mother’s womb! I didn’t make any mistakes. I CAN’T make any mistakes. I am Yahweh! Do you believe that, Sarah?”

He’s telling me that He’s not finished using me – using this life yet. He is telling me to write it down and to have it ready for the 2016 Olympic Games.

It is May 12th, 2016. This seems like a harsh deadline, considering He just said, “Stop striving…”


So now that you have this e-book in your hands, you can see that I listened to the call. But more importantly, God listened to mine, when I prayed, “If you want me to do this, are you going to make the baby sleep? Are you going to give me the time? Are you going to help me find a way to get this into the hands of athletes?”

And the whole time, He said, “Yes, yes, yes. Stop striving. Just answer the call.”

God totally blessed me as I worked through the process, and I really enjoyed it. Many of the chapters are adapted from articles I wrote for the Women Alive website while I was still competing with the National Team.  Many of the sports introductions come directly from my training journals. Putting everything together really helped me to work through and put into words everything that God has done in my life through sport.  It’s been an amazing process!

thumbnail_image1And yes… most of the writing happened like this:  With Zoe in the Jolly Jumper, or asleep on my lap, or doing her baby push-ups on the floor (she is determined to crawl, but isn’t quite there yet!)  So I have to thank her for her patience.

That being said, she is getting pretty antsy in the Jolly Jumper right now, so it’s time for us to move onto the day’s adventures.

I really hope you enjoy the book, but more importantly, that God really speaks to you through it.  Once you’re done, I would love for you to let me know what you thought through the comments section of the website.

Have a great day, and if you can’t watch it live, be sure to PVR the Opening Ceremonies tonight!