Many of you know that a few years ago, I took up running. This is something I once boldly declared I would never do. It’s not that I didn’t like running — I actually HATED running! OK, I didn’t hate it in all forms. If there was a ball to be dribbled or a pass to be caught I could do it for hours. But to run? I mean, just to RUN? No thanks!
For one thing, most runners I knew either collapsed or vomited violently at the finish line, and for another, I couldn’t bring myself to wear those tiny little runner shorts that expose the white part of one’s thighs above the tan line. Come to think of it, that sight might be why runners vomit violently in the first place. But now, with the advent of longer running shorts I figured, why not give it a try?
When I started running, it was just for the exercise. I didn’t even think about doing any races. However, when Pathway’s own Mukti 5K came around, I entered. After all, it was for a great cause. Since I didn’t die, I decided to try a 10K and then a half-marathon. And since I didn’t have anyone to talk sense into me, I signed up for a marathon — and then another. I have heard it said that you run your first marathon for the sense of accomplishment and you run your second because your body forgot to tell your brain how miserable you were during the first one. Well, my body should start talking more, because I’ve continued to sign up.
Some of you are aware that I just ran another marathon in Boston. Honestly, it was the fulfillment of a dream. It is a very special and historic race and it was a privilege just to qualify for it, let alone complete it. I had the opportunity to race the same course that day with many of the world’s elite runners. I’m not suggesting they were a lot faster than me, but let’s just say that by the time I finished, they could have received their prize, showered, eaten dinner and been on a plane back to their homes!
However, the speed of the elites, or of any other runner, for that matter, really isn’t an issue for the majority of mortals in the race. Unless you have a chance to beat the other 30,000 runners, you’re not running against people, you’re running against the clock. Everyone is out for a “P.R.,” which stands for personal record. I actually set one in this year’s Boston Marathon — for my worst ever! It was tough going.
There were reasons for my struggle I’d be happy to bore you with if you ask, but regardless of the causes, my legs were rebelling. Yet, there were a few things that kept me running miles beyond what seemed possible. Among those was the sense of accomplishment, but as the miles increased, along with the pain, the most significant motivation was that I knew Carolyn was up ahead to cheer me on. Carolyn has been at all of my marathons and has made it a priority to see me multiple times in each race. That has meant navigating her way by car through the streets of Los Angeles, riding subway trains in Chicago and walking untold miles to designated meeting places along the course. For the Boston Marathon, she spent hours pouring over public transit schedules figuring out how she could see me in the most places.
Then she donned a bright orange hat, made a pole with a neon flag and green polka dot balloon on top, and waved it wildly so I wouldn’t miss her as I ran past. And knowing she was up ahead along the course was instrumental in encouraging me and motivating me to keep going.
While I was running in Boston, I was well aware that Carolyn’s presence ahead of me was pulling me along. In fact, it caused a couple verses from Hebrews to roll through my mind shortly after I passed her near mile 21. Those verses say, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Those verses are talking about a marathon. No, not one that’s measured by 26.2 miles, but one that is measured by a lifetime. The truth is, we are all in a race and elsewhere the Apostle Paul tells us to press on in running that race for ourselves. But these verses tell us we are also all spectators in the race of others and we have a responsibility to help them run. You probably have some people around you who are struggling in their race and they may be ready to give up. You can’t let that happen. You need to start waving your flag and cheering to spur them on toward finishing their race well. You might even have to figure out how to navigate your way to where they need you most so they won’t stop short of the goal. The way you provide that motivation may differ from person to person, but you can’t give up so they won’t either.
— Pastor Jeff