Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hakone Ekiden

An excerpt from...

Hakone Ekiden

Run the Race with Endurance
By Holly MuehleisenJapan
October-December 2013

Hakone Ekiden
Japan is a country that loves traditions. No time is as full of traditions as the New Year for the Japanese. And just like Americans, Japanese people love a good sporting event over the holidays.

Is It a Marathon? Yes.
Every year, on January 2 and 3, 20 university teams race a course that stretches 60 miles from downtown Tokyo to a town called Hakone, close to Mount Fuji. This race is called the Hakone Ekiden. The runners race down to Hakone on the first day of the race and back on the second day.

Is It a Relay? Yes.
But this isn’t your usual marathon. Each day is split into five different legs and the runners pass on a sash to the next member of their team. With 10 runners per team, an overall total of 200 athletes push themselves to help their team run well.

Never Alone
As the leaders pull away from the pack, even if they get farther out, they are never truly alone. They have a police escort as well as the cheering spectators on the side of the road. But more importantly, a car follows them with someone shouting encouragement and advice through a loudspeaker. Also in the car is one of the coaches, trying to help each runner perform to the best of his ability.

Giving Their Best
As they reach the end of their leg of the race, many have pushed themselves so hard that as they come off the street, they collapse into the arms of their coaches and team members. Some of them don’t even make it off the street, as volunteers come to wrap them in a towel and give them a drink of water.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
One of the great things about living in daily contact with another culture is that I get a chance to see the gospel in a new and different light. I have always believed Paul’s example of a race to be an easily understood way of viewing the Christian walk. I have never pictured the Christian walk as a short 100-meter dash, but rather as a race of endurance. Still, in my mind, this race of endurance was more of a solo run. More like a regular marathon, with each runner on his or her own journey.

2 Timothy 4:7-8
But my view of “running the race” of faith has changed since starting to watch the Ekiden. As a Christian, and even more specifically as a missionary, I am not on a solo run. I have other teammates; I have people cheering for me and coaching me. There are people who have gone before whose efforts I need to remember and respect, as well as times when I will be the one coming off the course tired and weary.

Hebrews 12:1-3
Where are you in your own Christian faith and at which position in the race do you find yourself? Are you a runner starting out fresh? Are you pushing on through the pain? Are you weak and tired coming in at the end of your lap of the race? Maybe you are one of those cheering and supporting and encouraging those who are running or perhaps one of those who has a bottle of water and towel for another who is coming off the course tired and battered. Are you a coach who understands both the course and the running and can give advice to those doing the running?

Together We Can Run the Race of Endurance
Each one of us needs to encourage and lift one another up in prayer, as well as challenge and spur one another on as members of the body of Christ. Are you actively involved in the role God has called you to play?

Pray!PRAY: Here’s a spiritual fitness plan that may help you encourage and lift missionaries in prayer.
Sunday: Relationship with God
Monday: Witness
Tuesday: Service
Wednesday:  Love
Thursday: Renewal
Friday: Partners
Saturday: Teach

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