“Faith and Running”-Isaac Wendland

Faith and Running

By Isaac M. Wendland

Isaac Wendland

Faith and running entered my life when I participated in my first 5k race at the age of 6 years old. The race was “The Great River Road-Road Race” in Marquette, Iowa. It was a family event and when the gun went off, I soon realized I had to leave my family behind. I ran the whole thing out of fear because I wanted to get back to my family again. When I saw the finish line ahead, I sprinted in and perhaps that was the birth of my patented kick. All I know is that I was sure glad to be back with my mom, dad, and brothers.

God has been so good to me in my running. I truly do owe Him all the glory, accolades, and awards I have been given throughout my running career. One of my biggest dreams in middle school was to be a four-time state champion in the mile. I grew up watching my two older brothers compete at that level and it made me hope and dream to be there one day as well. I remember watching milers like David Gott (Linn-Marr) and Logan Gonzalez (Boone) become “Iowa legends” in running and I could not wait to get a chance to step on that blue track and start my own career. I never dreamed my career would come close to those I admired, but I was sure excited to be on the same blue track as those milers I looked up to.

I remember the first time I was given the opportunity to step onto the blue track at Drake University. I qualified for the Drake mile that year as a freshman. It would be my first debut on the blue track. It also would be one memory I would never forget. I believed this could be my chance to show people what I could do. It was the first time I ever really remember having such high hopes for a race. Yet, I also don’t believe I have ever felt such disappointment after a race. I ran a 4:32 in the mile that day. I ended up being in the bottom three. I could not believe that I ran 4:33 the year before in 8th grade and now beginning my freshmen year would run around the same time. I remember after the race seeing my dreams fade away. I soon realized I could not do this alone. I remember my dear friend, Greg (Offerman), came up to me after the race and put his arm around me. I don’t remember what he said, but sometimes it is not what people say, it is what they do and at that moment, he was there for me.

This disappointment began a turning point in my running career. I use to be confident in myself and in my

Isaac Wendland

running, but now I realized I could not do this by myself.

Later in the track season, our team was favored to win state, although we knew it would be a battle between Wahlert of Dubuque. The pressure for the Charles City Track team was heavy, but we were ready for the competition. My mile race was coming up, but before I ran I wanted to go and watch my teammate Drew Johnson run the 100 meter dash. I came out of the field house knowing if Drew was in the top three, I would not have so much pressure on me in the mile. He was predicted to be in the top three and we had just found out that the two predicted for first and second had been injured. This information was great news for us. When the race went underway Drew fell back and ended up getting 6th place. Everyone around me just stared at me and to this day, some say I looked like I saw a ghost. I still to this day get nervous thinking about that moment. I believed now that to win a state title for our team, it all came down to one thing – I had to win the mile. Right then all I could think about was my big disappointment at Drake Relays in the mile. Not only was that memory coming, but my body was reminding me that I just ran the 800 meters two hours before and got a three second personal best. I threw up for fifteen minutes after that race and wondered could I pull off a win in the mile. I was not confident like I was at Drake Relays before the disappointment. In fact, I was scared. Scared to run and lose. I went back quietly to the field house with my head down. I was going through my bag and picked up a devotional book, my mom had placed in my bag before I left for State. The devotional book was entitled “God Calling” and I had never read it before. I began praying and asking God for strength. I opened up the devotional and went to that day’s date. I began reading these words,

WIN ME. WIN ALL. You will conquer. The conquering spirit is never crushed. Keep a brave and trusting heart. Face all your difficulties in the spirit of Conquest. Rise to greater heights than you have known before. Remember where I am is Victory. Forces of evil, within and without you, flee at My Presence. Win Me and all is won.  All.”

If it was not enough to read those words, I had my Ipod in and was listening to Casting Crown’s “Voice of Truth” which lyrics are,

“Oh, what I would do to have the kind of face it takes to climb out of this boat, onto the crashing waves, to step out of my comfort zone, to the realm of the unknown where Jesus is, and He’s holding out His hand, but the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me, reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The waves keep telling me, time and time again, ‘Boy, you’ll never win! You will never win.’ But, the voice of truth tells me a different story, and the voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.” And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will chose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

I still tear up when I think of that moment and what God did for me. After that devotional, I knew this race was going to be different. I still was not confident in myself, but I was confident in God. I knew that if I sought after Him, He would take care of the rest. I will never forget the last 200 meters of my freshmen mile. I felt light, like I was not even touching the ground. It was as if I never ran the 800 meters just two hours before. I remember catching and passing Tony Fischels of Webster City and feeling completely free, like God had taken a weight off of me. I crossed the line and raised both arms and pointed up to heaven knowing it was only God that I was actually able to run that race and win it.

Now you would think from here, it would become much easier to get on the track and run. However, it was just the opposite. Some people think if God is on your side you will never have any more troubles, trials, and everything will feel as good as the day when you realized God was with you. That was not the case for me. Every time I was on that blue track, I was nervous and scared. I remember my junior year of high school running the state mile and I fell to the back. Which was normal for me, but this was getting late in the race. I heard someone beside me say, “This is your race, Wendland. You’ve got to get up there.” That runner was Jon Stover of Humbolt. I still to this day owe him a state title because if it wasn’t for God using him to encourage me, I don’t believe I would have won that race.

When I look back on my running career, the Scripture verse that sticks to me is found in II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” It was in my moments of fear and disappointments that His strength was made perfect in me.  My high school career was greater than I could ever have imagined. By God’s grace I was able to accomplish way more than I ever dreamed.

Now I am coming to my last season of track at Liberty University. My college career has not been one of great heights. I have had glimpses of what I thought I could accomplish, but never have been able to achieve what I know I am capable of. Last season in Boston at the Valentine Invitational, I thought God was going to restore all that I had lost the past three years. I was preparing to run the mile and was looking to go as close to sub 4 as possible (which has been a dream of mine since middle school). It was the first time in a while that my plantar fasciitis was not bothering me. I was ready. I was praying before my race and I started listening to “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns again. I began praying for freedom for that race. I felt a confidence and went out to run. While I began running, the unexplainable happened; my right foot began to hurt. It was so painful I could barely walk on it. I hurried to the trainers and they tried wrapping it for me, but to no avail – I was in pain. I tried to put my spikes back on and do some striders, but by then I knew something was terribly wrong. I had to drop out of the race and later found out that I had broken my fourth metatarsal during my warm-up. I am still not for sure why that happened, but I know God is greater than any circumstance. I know that before, He took my greatest disappointment and turned it into my greatest triumph. I know if I continue to place my trust in Him in all areas on of life (my family, work, and even running), He will have His victory in it. And His victory overcomes the greatest defeats.

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