Lay Aside Your Cheap Running Shoes

One of the pleasures of diverse reading is finding unexpected connections between unrelated books. I found one of these recently as I was reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (a book about the founding and growth of Nike) and Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson (a book about the Christian’s growth in holiness)—two books I thoroughly enjoyed. The books and authors could hardly be more different, yet in this one way they agreed.

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While most of Shoe Dog is focused on Nike, Knight offers some “wisdom” on faith, and says some of the most ridiculous things you could ever read. Things like this: “Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.” Say what? That makes no sense! Meanwhile Ferguson says some of the strongest, most life-shaping things about faith. “God never throws us back to rely on ourselves and our own resources. He encourages us to grow up as Christians by digging down ever more deeply into the riches of his grace in Jesus Christ. Christ himself is the rich and fertile soil in which Christian holiness puts down strong roots, grows tall and bears the fruit of the Spirit.”

Yet for these mile-wide differences, their books complement one another in at least one helpful way.

In an early section of Shoe Dog, Knight talks about his business partner Bill Bowerman and his obsession with developing running shoes that were lighter than any had ever been. Why this focus? Because a lighter running shoe translates to greater speed and faster times. It’s simple math, really. Knight explains:

One ounce sliced off a pair of shoes, he said, is equivalent to 55 pounds over one mile. He wasn’t kidding. His math was solid. You take the average man’s stride of six feet, spread it out over a mile (5,280 feet), you get 880 steps. Remove one ounce from each step—that’s 55 pounds on the button. Lightness, Bowerman believed, directly translated to less burden, which meant more energy, which meant more speed. And speed equaled winning. Bowerman didn’t like to lose. (I got it from him.) Thus lightness was his constant goal.

The extra weight of a running shoe, even if it is measured only in ounces, adds up over time, over the course of a long race. It can be the difference between winning and losing.

Meanwhile, in Devoted to God, Ferguson examines Hebrews 12:1 and its great challenge: “…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Ferguson explains: “Excess weight is never a good thing. But its effects may not be immediately apparent—until we begin to run. Then it becomes a hindrance. Similarly in the Christian race. So, says the author of Hebrews, let us rid ourselves of everything that weighs us down, keeps us back, or hinders us from a swift obedience to Christ.” Let us rid ourselves of all sin and let us rid ourselves of all distractions.

Two authors, two books, two faiths, two topics, but one common theme: To run well you must rid yourself of all excess weight. It is true when running a race, it is true when pursuing Christ.