“Congratulations! You’ve finished a Marathon!” These were the words that were spoken to me as I reached inside myself to run the last hundred yards to the finish line this past Saturday at the North Country Run. It was my third year at this event but my first attempt at the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. God did not design me to be fleet of foot… Let me begin by saying that the North Country Run is incredibly supportive down to the last runner on the course. I have already begun planning to improve on my time next year.
Runner’s World magazine published a compelling article some time ago written by an elite celebrity runner. I was moved by his message in which he commented about the number of times fans with my physical makeup (5’ 8” and 200 plus pounds) would speak to him in awe and congratulate him on a run. He said that he was writing the article to speak to those people. We too often think of the best response after the fact and he wanted to finally get his message out… that he was in awe of them!
He was genetically designed to run. His legs were long; his hips narrow; his chest was large. He acknowledge the training and effort that he put into his running but he also said that he continued to train because it resulted in his winning events. What amazed him were those people who ran and trained and dieted who would always come in at the end of the pack… yet they continued to run.
I read another posted letter from a runner who, because of an injury, ran a much slower pace in an event in which she had regularly been a leader. She was stunned to realize for the first time that for many of the slower runners the cheering crowds were absent; the band was putting away their gear; the tables stocked with water or nutrition were unattended or empty.
I have spoken to some who have made demeaning comments about those of us with less impressive times on a course… one was a pastor! The reality is that those people make up a small, small portion of the running world. We are just prone to hear and dwell on their negativity. How much better would our lives be if we could just let their toxins roll off of us and focus on the positives!
I began the marathon in the back of the pack and after the first mile the group had spread themselves out on the trail. An obvious athlete was just in front of me and he told me to pass him because he was running with an injured ankle and would possibly be pulling out of the event. We began to talk and when he learned that it was my first attempt at a marathon said, “I am going to watch you cross that finish line!” We jogged and walked on level stretches through torrential rain and deep puddles. We bent forward and climbed muddy hills and slid carefully down trails attempting to stay upright… all the while breathing quietly or sharing encouraging words. God sends angels in many forms.
I think he knew what an encouragement that he was to me. He certainly kept me at a faster pace than I would have been otherwise. And it made me think about how many of us might be servants to others whom we encounter. Sharing a positive word; acknowledging our own humanity and frailty; seeing another cross the finish line... I hope that these attributes define all of us in the human race but especially as followers of Christ.
Best wishes to all of you running life’s various marathons!