A 10km run used to be an easy and mentally refreshing assignment. But poor health and an unco-operative body over the past year has made a 5km plod seem like a marathon.

Today, after some runs in balmy Queensland weather earlier this week, I was back in familiar territory on the Yarra. The goal, to clock up 10km.

There were many on the track today, runners, walkers, cyclists. And coxswains demanded faster strokes from rowers on the river.

At the 6km mark today, as I was feeling it, a young runner – maybe 12 or 13 – strided past me and offered the encouragement, “keep going mate”! While unexpected, I needed to hear those words. 500m later I approached an older runner who looked like he was done and dusted, so I decided to echo the teen’s words, ”keep going mate”. He smiled and replied: ”I’m not getting any younger”.

Neither am I, but I know I need to get through this unexpected phase of my life. And while how far I go in a run means little at the end of the day, it is a reminder of the power of the mind.

Today as I got to the 8km mark my mind was echoing competing messages. Put simply, one voice yelled “stop”, the other screamed ”keep going”.

The latter was what I needed to hear and it gave me the motivation to keep going, to clock up the 10km run within my target time. Yes, that felt good. But as I caught my breath I was reminded of the bigger challenges we all face everyday. Our mind screams so many different messages every day. What we think we can do and what we can’t. Messages that shape attitudes and actions. Messages that spur us or lead us to self pity. Messages that move us forward or take us backwards. Messages that move us towards others, or further away.

There are many more important things than a 10km run. And I am thankful that every day I can ask the Holy Spirit to help me make good, wise decisions in the midst of so much noise. Without the Spirit’s help I would make even more bad decisions and my view of self and others would be more negatively impacted.

A teenager on the Yarra track tells me today ”to keep going”. I am thankful my God echoes the same message and he promises to be with me every step of the way in the race of life!