Track & Field: 4 Lessons From The Starting Blocks

May 7, 2013 — 15 Comments

Both of my kids are finishing up their spring track and field season.  Hannah is running in her first year of high school where she is competing in the 800, the 1600, the 4×400 relay, and the 4×800 relay.  And Isaac is running in his first year of middle school track where he is competing in the long jump, the hurdles, and the 200.

It has been such a blast to be a parent during these past couple of months.  I love the opportunity to go to their meets, to cheer them on, and to observe all the different events that seem to be happening at once.

I ran one season of winter track and a season of spring track when I was in high school.  In both cases I ran the longer distances.  I never had the opportunity or need to use starting blocks as they are typically used for the shorter sprint races like the 100, the 200, and the 400.

It’s been interesting to observe the sprinters as they prepare for their races.  They setup their starting blocks just right, so they’re ready for the race.  They jump up and down and do a couple of quick trials to practice accelerating out of their blocks.  They listen intently to the instructions of the starter.  They get ready.  They get set.  And they listen for the sound of the starting gun.  They are completely still.   And they’re alert.  All this happens before the race even starts.

I think we can learn a lot from the starting blocks.  Here are 4 thoughts or lessons that come to my mind:

  1. Prepare.  A runner doesn’t typically step up to the starting line without preparing.  They practice for hours to get ready for this moment.  Then they put on the right clothes and tie their shoes just right.  They warm up.  And they make sure everything is set up just right.  In life, we have the opportunity to prepare for the race that we are running by putting on the full armor of God.  In Ephesians 6, Paul gives us an idea of what this looks like:  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.  Ephesians 6:10-20

  2. Listen.  It is essential for a runner to listen to the instructions of the starter.  The starter gives the runner specific information that helps the runner start the race and run the race successfully.  Failure to follow these instructions can result in disqualification from the race.  Similarly, we must listen to our Instructor – God and His Word.  The Bible gives us clear instructions for how we should live our lives.  It’s important that we follow God’s voice – his instructions – so we are not disqualified.  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  John 10:27-30
  3. Be Still.  When a sprinter finally settles into his or her starting blocks.  They have to be completely still.  If they are talking or moving, they will distract other runners, they won’t be ready for the starting gun, and they will be disqualified from the race.  In the race of life, we need to be still.  We get moving at such a high rate of speed as we move from one activity to the next and from one thought to the next.  We miss out on the glory of the presence of God because we are too preoccupied with ourselves.  Before we run the race of life, we need to know who is in charge.  “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10
  4. Be Alert.  A runner is alert and ready to go at any moment.  They are ready to bounce like a cheetah as soon as they hear the noise of the starting gun.  They don’t know exactly when the gun will sound, but they are ready.  In the race of life, we are called to be alert and to be ready at all times.  We are called to be prepared in season and out of season, and we are called to make the most of each and every opportunity.  Jesus reminds us in Mark 13, that we need to be alert at all times:  Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”  Mark 13:33

That’s all I’ve got.  Time to head out for my morning run!

What else can you add to this list?  When was the last time you ran a race?  How did you get ready for the race?

Jon Stolpe


Christ-follower, husband, dad, engineer, manager, runner, blogger, sax player, group life fan, freelance writer, and the list goes on...
  • Steve Y

    In my teaching (I teach tennis), I would also ask my student to visualize the action. Many great athletes visualize their performance, before they preform. I have read of runners “seeing” themselves running toward the finish lie stride by stride. As a Christian, I should strive to visualize my day, interactions prayer time, etc. to then be able to have a game plan for my day. When I “wing it”, I often forget my time with God. I need to be intentional and purposeful. I can’t think of a verse to correlate, but there are a few I am sure.

    • Jon Stolpe

      Great thoughts, Steve.

  • David Paul Stolpe

    Not a runner, but I just got confirmation of registration in the River West 24 Hour Bike Race. This will be my forth year. To prep I get lights and batteries ready so I can see what is in front of me. The lords word is a lamp unto my feet. I get extra tubes and bring tools because when you lose air (spirit) you can’t move forward. A bike without air is like life without love, like salt that has lost its flavor or yeast that no longer leavens. I make sure i am well rested as 24 hours is a long haul. Kind of like Joseph preparing for the coming famine. The best part of this race is the fellowship and community building. This event is ultimately about loving your neighbor and being your brothers keeper.

    • Jon Stolpe

      Yes, we have to get our bikes ready for the spring and summer riding season. It’s not uncommon to need air for the tires. Good luck in your race.

  • David

    I ran in one organized 5-K fun-run/race many, many, MANY years ago. I’m only just beginning to start running again, my goal is to be comfortable running a 5-K again whether or not I actually participate in an organized event or not. Longer term it would be nice to get comfortable running 10-K, but since I’m taking it 1 mile at a time I’ve still got about 5 more to go. Way back in high school I used to run 5 miles on a regular basis but I’ve never run competitively.

    • Jon Stolpe

      I’m running a 5K this weekend as our church kicks off it’s semi-annual Servefest for the spring. Keep at it! You can do it!

  • Dan Black

    Great and true points. I have found being prepared both psychically and mentally so important when it comes to a race, life, or leadership. Before the race (when I ran in High School) I made sure to motivate myself with positive self-talk and listening to upbeat music. Which is part of being mentally prepared.

    • Jon Stolpe

      Great addition to the discussion, Dan. It always helps to visualize success.

      • Dan Black

        Glad to join. Thank you for sparking my thoughts:)

  • Jon Stolpe

    I ran a small 5K last summer. Before that my last race was a marathon a couple of Thanksgivings ago.

  • Eileen Knowles

    Love this, Jon. And love the lessons you took away from it!

    • Jon Stolpe

      Thanks, Eileen!

  • Sharon Gramling

    Enjoying this, Jon. It’s very necessary (and fun) to toggle in observations – look at God’s word, then look at life; look at God’s word, then look at life – the parallels are immense and so indicative of His watchful, instructive Hand. Thanks for sharing all of this; none of it’s falling to the ground, man. God bless you.

    • Jon Stolpe

      Thanks, Sharon! (Hopefully, more to come.)

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