“What can I learn from it when I do or don’t finish? It’s just a race, and being able to see that yes, I failed, but I’m not a failure. Being able to find out that I got knocked down and was able to get back up ties to every aspect of our faith walk.”
Mark Myers’ journey into ultra running filled with lessons of redemption
By Sarah Gooding
Faith, redemption and a willingness to run with endurance whatever course is before him are hallmarks of Mark Myers’ running and faith.
While Myers started his journey as a runner like so many others — despite a history of avoiding running, it seemed like the best way to get in shape and lose weight — a quick acceleration into 5k’s, 10k’s and then a humbling first marathon quickly aligned his running and faith journeys, which have progressed together for much of the past 22 years.
“After I got into running, I went from running a 5k to a 10k, and I jumped from a 10k to a marathon with nothing in between,” he said. “You get that over-inflated ego, and I didn’t change any of my running or follow a marathon training plan. After running my first marathon in five-plus hours, I had that humbling experience of ‘this takes more effort and thought process.’
“It’s the same with the Christian and faith walk,” Myers continued. “You think you can just go to church on Sunday at first, but you have to go through some trials and stuff and you find that to really rely on ‘What does God want me to do?’ you have to do more than just go to church on Sunday.”
Rather than giving up after that first marathon, Myers pushed further into distance running.
“The thing that got me past the first marathon was stubbornness and hardheadedness,” he said. “I knew I did stuff wrong, but I know I can do things better.”
With that attitude and a faith to match, Myers developed a passion for ultra running, particularly as he gave up worrying about the clock and instead chose to embrace each journey: the course, the scenery and the relationships built along the way.
“Running seven hours to me doesn’t seem like seven hours,” he said. “It feels like an hour because I get to be out there and enjoy.”
While his approach to running isn’t pessimistic, Myers said some of his most notable memories are times he has not succeeded, likely because these are the moments that keep him pressing forward.
“The biggest things I remember from my running are when I fail at a run,” he said. “One in particular was a run in Independence, Kansas, Flat Rock. They have a thing they call a knighting ceremony if you run 10 races in a row.”
The ceremony includes free admission from then on and a perennial cloth bib, and Myers was working toward these prizes when he ended up with a DNF – did not finish – in his seventh year.
“It wasn’t that I failed intentionally, and it’s not something that will change my life if I finish or don’t finish,” he said. “It’s ‘what can I learn from it when I do or don’t finish?’ It’s just a race, and being able to see that yes, I failed, but I’m not a failure. Being able to find out that I got knocked down and was able to get back up ties to every aspect of our faith walk.
“To paraphrase my favorite scripture, Hebrews 12:1-2, I run the race before a great crowd of witnesses and get rid of the hindrances that hold me back. I run this with endurance.”