Twenty-Minute Hell

By Cindy Koch

Burning. Panting. I can’t quite catch a deep breath. Pain from my stomach shoots into my limbs, frizzling, tingling all the way to my fingernails. Fuzzy fire prevents my legs from moving any faster. I have growing fears they will give out on me every unsteady step I take. A single ankle screams and clenches fast to my foot, threatening to twist off the course. Claws of breath scratch from the inside of my chest. My heartbeat punches the back of my eyeballs. Red with determination, I fight to keep them open and focused, even under the boiling, stinging sweat.

The evil red watcher saunters steadily along. Her proud, straight face mocks my pain with her indifference. She even seems to stall a little longer, prolonging my agony and preserving her joy. I hate her blazing red perfectly formed digits, and I try to ignore her menacing prescription of pain.

12:27, 12:26, 12:25…

She quietly counts every second, reveling in my growing weakness. I catch her hidden smirk, as my strength is drained and my eyes feel dim.

It wasn’t always this bad. I can remember the beginning of my journey when the weight was light, my heart was rested, and I was ready for anything. The first few steps were almost easy. I knew there would be hard times to come, but I could not quite see the suffering that was coming. Almost halfway through hell, feeling in my arm disappeared. I panicked. How could I continue this intense test of strength and will without half of my body?

10:13, 10:12, 10:11…


The others flooded into view. Two steps back, shaking and gasping, I could see them right next to me. One was only feet away from me. He was sprawled out on the sticky floor, chest heaving, doused with defeat. He pushed, rose to his feet once again, but almost immediately plunged back into the depths. Another was across the way, hanging on for dear life. She swung wildly, pulling herself momentarily away from that terrible path of pain. Exhausted, she collapsed right back into that twenty-minute valley of death.

4:30, 4:29, 4:28…

I heard a voice behind me. I almost couldn’t make it out above the pounding noise or the shrieks of the others. Bodies flailing. Evil clock ticking. Panic surging through my spine. But, the sweet voice whispered, “You’re almost there.”

3:01, 3:00, 2:59…

She was right. I couldn’t feel it through my throbbing eyes. I couldn’t see it on the terrified faces of the others. I didn’t know it by focusing on those wicked numbers. I heard and remembered what was true all along. There is an end to this pain.


1:57, 1:56, 1:55…

Each step hurt. My breath was furious, and my arm was still numb, but I would finish. There is an end to this pain. “Keep moving, don’t stop, you’re almost there,” that gentle voice encouraged. There is an end to this pain. The clock no longer terrifies; I laugh in her red-hot face. There is an end to this pain. Endure and listen to that wise, quiet voice. There is an end to this pain.

0:33, 0:32, 0:31…

I focus. I pick up that terrible weight with renewed strength. Someone outside of my own exhausted, broken body reminded me that this twenty-minute hell is not my eternity. I point my eyes directly on that beautiful future of rest.  The steps are not any easier, and I can’t move any faster, but I know where I’m headed.

Don’t dwell on the lies and pain of the Deceiver of this world. Don’t let Him bind you to an agony that never ceases. He makes you believe that this pain is all that matters. He craftily tells you that comfort will never belong to you. Rather, listen intently to that soft voice who speaks the Truth. Anticipate your precious rest in Christ: Eternal and everlasting. Peace is your end.

0:02, 0:01, 0:00

Reflection inspired by CrossFit Games Open Workout 16.1