Psalm 26:2 – Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.
Psalm 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.”
The 10th annual Williams Route 66 Marathon on 11/22/15 was my 13th full marathon to date. But looking back, it was one of the most important marathons I have ever done. And no, it wasn’t about my time. People keep on asking me how I did.. and the way I break the ice is “I finished!”.
To my surprise, this was the race with the most number of Marathon Maniacs (like me) who were there! Altogether there were about 2,000 Maniacs and Half Fanatics.
It wasn’t easy but I thank God for the experience today, for He led me to a path which I would NEVER could imagine, even a month ago.
In the preceding few weeks, I had also been fasting (more on that towards the end of the blog), the theme being “trust in God alone” and really meaning it. I went through a lot of boards-lingering (Pathology boards and going through the Texas Medical Board to get my license) stress in the last few weeks, including overwhelming anxiety/depression, panic attacks, insomnia, difficulty eating/breathing, chest tightness, all of which I never had before to this degree. I was sick for a few weeks, and was with my parents for over a week and even saw a Chinese/traditional doc who said I had a stress reaction and there’s an imbalance in my body, though she could tell I’m an athlete.
For the record, because I have “ASIAN parents”… I never tell my parents about my marathoning in detail, for my parents (especially my mom) is pretty harsh on me (especially with hobbies). During my time of stress, I became really upset and even thought about quitting my career as a doctor if things with the Texas Medical Board and the Pathology boards didn’t work out… Part of that was against my mom’s constant critical nagging.
But then, one day, I could sense my mom “surrendering” herself. She even admitted that at one time, she thought that the path to happiness was to make money and have a successful career. But now, she’s not even asking for that. She just wants me to be happy in whatever I do and be able to support myself. Now, God’s telling me, the ball is in YOUR hands, now is the time to open up about your hobby of marathoning.
It was 11/14/15. I honestly thought the Route 66 marathon was already over (knowing that it’s in November), but when I did a search, it was still open!!
I did not want to do this race. But God had put this on my heart. He said, “Do it. Do not be afraid, trust in Me, and invite your parents along, tell them you’re a Maniac and how much this means to you, now that they opened up.” No matter how much I doubted or questioned my abilities or motives or have thoughts I didn’t want to go, I hear God saying “Go, do it. Do not question yourself. Obey my commandments, and trust in me.” I decided to trust in God’s promises to me, still with a lot of doubt.
As part of the repentance process, I told my parents first before anyone else, before I signed up. Usually it’s the other way around. When I signed up last Sunday, it was 99% full, with only fewer than 10 spots left. I had NO FREAKIN idea that this was THE largest Maniac race in the whole US.
This race isn’t about getting another medal on my wall or Christmas tree. For this is not about me, for before I started, I know God had greater plans for me. It was about 1) learning to trust in Him alone and 2) telling my folks about my passion in life besides my career.
When I shared this with a few other brothers, even they were like “bro, are you sure?”, “don’t think it’s a good idea”, “don’t do anything crazy”. Yet, I kept on hearing from God, “Do it, seek me and trust in me, not in yourself, not in other people”. I had a lot of doubt, but I decided to trust in God and see what happens.
On Saturday 11/21/15, my parents and I took off to Tulsa after I received another round of acupuncture treatment..
Approaching Tulsa, OK… It was about a 3.5 hour drive from Dallas, TX. So we decided to stop at KFC, where I did some “carb loading” (and impaction later.. haha).
To me, the expo was just like any other race’s expo. But this is the first time my parents saw the process, from packet pick up to merchandise, to the… Marathon Maniacs booth??!!
No kidding… the Marathon Maniacs even had their own booth at the expo!!
So I bought this MM shirt bc it looked cool, only to find out that it’s a Canadian shirt!! FAIL :(… oh well, at least I have completed a marathon in Toronto earlier this year… lol
Somebody was probably tryin’ to pervert Scripture!! But it’s kinda funny actually… hah
At the expo I struggled. I had a near panic attack at the Expo and at home at night. But I persisted in saying “NO” to any bouts of attacks from the Devil. There were times which I wanted to give up, but only because of the promise that God placed on my heart, I was like, okay. I will obey. No questions. I resisted on acting out of my emotions and thought of ways to encourage my parents who drove me up to watch me run.
I took my parents out to this Italian place.. to carb load I guess lol…
On race day, the low was a 29 in Tulsa, OK. My parents drove me, and deep down, I was excited but afraid. I felt a rush of panic happening. I needed something of encouragement spiritually. I immediately turned off the Christmas music and put on (my headphones) a worship song by Bebo Norman, then played an excerpt Joshua chapter 1….
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
Wow… What a simple and encouraging command from God’s word that I can recite from my sleep, yet, I have a hard time receiving it into my heart. Please, God, help me.
I got to the start line trembling, and it didn’t help that it was cold as heck. I found the maniacs on the corner of Main and 7th Street for our group picture… That was freakin’ awesome!!
OMG this is hilarious!! Is it a love or hate relationship??!! LOL
The start line was AMAZING…
The temperature got above freezing within half an hour of the race. When we took off, I finally warmed up some by mile 1-2. I felt chilly and lightheaded, but finally began to feel better. I kept on focusing on the course and to my music.
The skies were crystal clear, and the leaves were as radiant as they could be, displaying in their fullness of the autumn beauty..
Around mile 9-12, I came across this older gentleman named Bill, and his mentee, a 16 year old girl (I forgot her name!!). Apparently it was a mentoring and training program for both kids of academic honor and kids with criminal records on their way to recovery (some kind of local program near Tulsa). Now, she was a straight A-student, but she told me she have friends from that program who were undergoing rehab and bad records… It’s cool how no matter what end of the spectrum, you have a mentor who is helping you train.
Also, it was so encouraging to hear the 16 year old share her testimony about how she accepted Christ 2 years ago, and that has changed her running even. She had ran 8 half marathons to date at the age of 16! I shared my recent struggles and reasons for running this race. She was really encouraged. We split ways at around the mile 12 mark as we approached downtown Tulsa.
Downtown Tulsa.. where the half and the full split.
I was on my own again for the full, around mile 13-14, I could feel rushes of panic come again. It would’ve have been a terrifying experience, but I immediately turned off my regular music, busted out the few worship songs that I had, called out to Jesus, cried, cursing the devil, and running fast, way faster than everyone else at the time, like a maniac… Well, as a Maniac, LOL.
Eventually, it went away. I think I may have eaten too much salt. Because I kept hydrating with water. I probably ran it off… But whatever lol.
Around mile 18, I knew I could run, but I heard a small voice to walk a little. Not knowing how long, I was like, alright… Soon after, a guy came next to me and said he had a hamstring cramp. I knew I had extra salt tablets I didn’t need, so I asked him “do you want some salt tablets?” He said “actually, yes. Thanks! Do you want a GU?” And I was like “actually, I do. Thanks!” When I caught up to him a few miles later, he said the salt tablets helped. I thought… Had I not walked, I would have not been able to give to that guy who was in need. Must be from God.
This race is not about me or my finish time.
Around mile 21, there was another fellow Maniac who looked like she was in distress. I knew had to stop. She said she wanted food, but I offered her a salt tablet because she looked dehydrated. Shortly after I stopped, several other maniacs also stopped to offer help, and I took off. Wow. Maniacs unite!
At mile 22, I instinctively picked up a GU that someone dropped on the ground.
At mile 22.5… For the first time EVER in a marathon (I know, after 12 marathons), I felt dizzy, had, intermittent blurry vision, and felt weak. I think this is the dreaded “wall” that most people describe. But I had a choice. To give into this wall or trust in God. He wanted me to keep running, not walk, not to resort to the victim mentality as usual for the last few weeks. I worried that my heart might stop and I would pass out, but I refused to give into that mentality. I said, “God, I will continue to trust you even after 22 miles”.
Mile 23… At this point the course has thinned out a bunch… People were walking, but others (like me) were just truckin’ along…
Someone was giving out hot carbs at mile 23… Saved the day!😂
At mile 25, I made the “Center of the Universe detour”. It was an extra 0.3 mile blurp which makes this the world’s shortest ultramarathon. 26.5 mi, USATF certified, LOL. What’s at the end of the detour?? People handing out beer of course! They gave out an extra medal for those who took the detour… Piece of cake! Ha!
At mile 25.5, I saw a homeless man under a bridge (shown above) sleeping. I knew I had to stop. I had nothing to give him but that extra GU I picked up on the ground at mile 22 earlier. I got a stare from a few other runners, but I didn’t give a crap. That homeless man needed something, even if it’s got a little caffeine… I felt really bad for him, for the nights were below freezing.
Approaching the finish line…
As I crossed the finish line, my parents were waiting for me, and I believe I was happy in front of them and really meant it.
My finish was a 5:05, but I no longer see myself as “slow” but see it as a 5 hour run with God leading the way.
Who knew that carbohydrates would taste so good after a race!!!
I met this group of Maniacs.. from left to right: B.J., me, Venama, and Terance.
I also met this other Maniac named Dani, who ran the extra 0.3 mile but forgot to pick up her extra medal. She was disappointed and was like “oh no! I did not pick up that extra medal for doing the extra 0.3 miles!!!” I heard this small voice, “give yours to her”. I questioned that thought, but was like, it’s just a medal. I told everyone, I don’t need another medal… Lol. It turned out that this was Dani’s first “ultra”, and I was like, yeah I’ve done 6 real ultras. I said, yup, another reason that this is yours 😀. She was super grateful.
What was cool about this race was that they even had a special Maniac medal for the maniacs who finished!! We had to exchange our original medal in exchange for a maniac one… but that’s pretty darn awesome!!
After meeting and talking with a few other maniacs, I went to go find my parents. They really enjoyed watching the race, and I had to get a picture with them at the finish line with them. They witnessed the Route 66 maniacs and the hundreds of Marathon Maniacs like me who crossed that finish line. How awesome is that… I didn’t plan for this, it just happened to be a Maniac-type of day 🏃🏃🏃😁😁…
My parents and I at the finish line. I was very encouraged to see that they support what I do, something that I am passionate about besides my career. It will be a long process to come, but I am continuing to being open about my life with them. My dad had always thought that a marathon is something competitive and the elites do. They didn’t understand that marathoning can be a leisurely activity. It was an eye-opening experience for them as well.
Well.. I gotta say goodbye to yet another bunch of Maniacs before we took off back to Dallas!!
I thank Jesus for allowing me to go through this experience today. He’s given the gift for me to run and enjoy, but there’s a greater purpose than the finishers medal. I was able to share my faith and recent challenges as a disciple with some random strangers on the course, encouraging them and feeling encourages, giving what little I had (salt tablets, this GU packet that I found on the ground) to help others, and being able to start the reconciliation process with my parents in the process. I even thank God for the trials I had at the start of the race, the panic attack at mile 13, and the wall at mile 22.5. In the process, He is teaching me to be patient with myself, others, and not be worried about tomorrow, the next race, or even the next mile. It’s going to be an ongoing process, and today symbolizes a new beginning and defines a continued process of repentance.
After the race, I realized that the marathon, a total of 26.5 miles, happened on the 26th day after I started the fast (Day 1 was 10/28/15). 26.5 miles on Day 26… That sure ain’t no coincidence! Perhaps the whole thing started with fasting and prayer🙏🏾….
During the fast, which started on 10/28/15. God broke me down one day, as I surrendered my race schedule unto Him. He revealed to me that He gave me the gift of running; he put each race in front of me not to glorify myself, but rather, to be of an encouragement to others, to be the light out there when people are hurting, slowing down, or injured, to give help to other runners, to share my faith – when the opportunity comes. Otherwise, the race is meaningless… vanity, vanity! like King Solomon states in the book of Ecclesiastes. I can’t say I’ve done that in most of my previous races, but for the Route 66 Marathon, I can say confidently that I earned a heavenly treasure as well as an earthly medal…
God allows everything to happen for a reason, yes, even all the stress, to include some elements of anxiety/depression, to happen. I would have NEVER imagined, even on day 10 of the fast, that I would run a marathon and my parents would ever come watch me. I was still going through stress through not obtaining my Texas Medical License and not getting my scores back from the Pathology boards (which consumed my life) – great news to follow on my upcoming post btw!!!
I am still a man full of doubts, but ultimately I allowed my heart to trust in God, and I am helped (Reference to Psalm 28). I stumble and get caught in my sins (such as unnecessary worrying / obsessing about something), but His grace is enough for me. His peace surpasses all understanding. My heart is weak and weary, but I know that Jesus, my Lord and Savior, is strong enough to hold me up and carry me through.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
And I thank God not only for the blessings, but also through the trials through this process, for it sure did test my faith but refined me in ways that I could have never imagined…
My next race is in my hometown of Dallas, TX – metroPCS Dallas Marathon on 12/13/15.