The 2014 documentary, The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young, is a film about a 100+ mile endurance race in the mountains of Tennessee. It is a cult-like race based on an historic prison escape, which tests the runner’s limits of physical and mental endurance.

The race is 1/3 on trails and 2/3 off trails, looping over mountains and through huge briers. Over the course of the race, runners gain and lose 60,000 feet of elevation.

Participants run day and night as they have only sixty hours to complete the race. If they sleep at all, it’s only for an hour or two during the entire course which has a duration of 60 hours.

Even the start of the race is variable. Runners are told to show up at a particular day and time, but the start time varies according to the Race Directors. A conch shell is blown sometime within a 12-hour window, signaling the race starts in one hour. This could be anytime between midnight and noon.

As much as these athletes have trained and prepared for this momentous event, they have to keep awake and wait in anticipation of its start.

This is very much like our journey as Christians. We too are in spiritual training and preparation and do not know when there will be the call for our momentous event to start. We do not know the hour Christ will return; He only calls us to keep awake.

Our current season of Advent started with Jesus asking if we are prepared for, “Suffering, the sun and moon darkening, stars falling from heaven, the Son of Man coming in clouds of great power and glory, angels gathering together all the saints as heaven and earth pass away (Mark 13:24-37).

Advent is not a sentimental and romantic idealization of Christmas, but is a reminder for us as Christians about the final judgement and our new birth in Christ.

Amidst the current environment and the additional chaos of this time of year, do we hear the promise that, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”?

This is a promise which goes beyond any current entertainment or cultural focus. God alone knows the time when this promise will be fulfilled, so let us be ready and “Keep Awake!”

During this season of Advent and beyond, what could we do to prepare and anticipate Jesus’ return?


  • Spend more time reading the Bible?
  • Spend more time in prayer?
  • Attend worship services regularly?
  • Tell more people Jesus is coming and support them in their preparation?

If this is what we would do with the knowledge of Christ’s momentous return, then it is what we need to be doing each and every day!

This article was written by Chris Craig-Jones, Assistant for Pastoral Care.