Monday, October 14, 2013

Finishing the race set before me

The alarm pierced the darkness, and like firemen, our clothes were set out, ready to put on.  My bib number was already pinned to my shirt, even socks tucked into my shoes.  We headed out, few words between my husband and I for the immensity of the task ahead. It was still dark when we parked.  I made my way through 45,000 other runners heading in the same direction.

I reached my assigned corral 45 minutes early, wearing an old sweatshirt to temper the morning chill and cast aside as soon as the race began.  I thought about ten years ago this day when I lined up right here for my very first marathon.  I never dreamed there would be more than one.

The sun came up and revealed an incredible fall day with the bluest of skies and the radiance of a generous sun.  Chicago had put on its Sunday best.  High 65, upper 40s at the start, not a cloud in the sky and a whispering breeze. 

The start of a marathon this size is controlled by corrals released one by one.  My group approached the starting line and then suddenly, we were off and running.   Within a 100 feet past the starting line, we were embraced by the ROAR of cheering spectators.  Not unlike, I thought, when someday we will cross the line to the Other Side of life and angels on both sides of the road will rejoice at our homecoming.

The entire route was lined with enthusiastic crowds, upbeat music blaring from bands and stereo systems, and hand-printed signs to encourage the runners.  There was a deep sense of community as I passed through the neighborhoods of gracious strangers who cheered me on.
I didn't know if I could even run this race, because of a sore foot for several weeks.  But I asked many friends to pray.  And I decided to give it a try, even if I only made it to mile two.  I could feel the tenderness of my foot throughout the race, but it held together.  And in the second half of the race,  it was the least of my aches and pains.

I was further encouraged by my faithful husband, who on his bike, traveled quickly from point to point to cheer me on.  One of our daughters and her friend also appeared from time to time on the sidelines, shouting "Go, Mom!" 

At about mile 15, I began slowing down, overwhelmed by fatigued muscles and the thought of eleven long miles left to go.  I could have easily stopped and called it a day.  But I was reminded of those who were praying, and quite suddenly, my perspective changed.  Instead of thinking, "oh my goodness, you still have ELEVEN miles to go!" I began saying out loud, "just eleven left."  And as I passed each mile marker, I began counting them DOWN instead of UP.  Just ten.  Just nine. Just eight..

At about mile 20, I realized that I was not only going to finish this race, but there was a slim possibility that I could make my Boston time if I picked up my pace. It was going to be really close, a narrow squeak, if at all.  Here, I thought I was not even going to be able to run at all, and now that?  

Just past mile 22 with only four miles to go, the route traveled under an overpass.  The asphalt was cracked and broken in places.  I tried to get to the left side where the pavement appeared a bit smoother. And then, WHOMP.  I went down hard, knocking the wind out of me.  Three runners stopped immediately, scooped me up like I was a pancake on a spatula, and sat me on a guard rail on the side of the road.  They ran on. I sat for a minute, and then started hobbling along until my legs loosened up a bit.  I know that someone was praying for me right then and there.  "...though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, but the LORD is the stay of his hand." (Psalm 37.24)   We all fall.  God gives us the strength to get back up.

The fall slowed me down significantly, but I noticed in those last few miles, I was not the only one hobbling.  My dictionary defines running as "to move or go at a pace swifter than a walk."  Most of us were right on the edge.  At this point, the end of the course was pulling us down that long straight road, one wobbly step at a time.  And even in that, there was a togetherness of strangers.

So I finished the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4.7), borne up by the prayers of the saints and so thankful for the manifestation of God's strength.   

God did not say we have to "be the best,"
                                   or don't even bother trying,
       not even "get your personal best," 
                                   or you are a failure,
just "do your best,"
           with excellence in all you do,
                whatever course you are on.
And sometimes that is
                          just in the striving.

I am a little achy this morning, bearing road rash on my knees and bruises on my hands from falling, but joyful for the adventure of it all.  

And so thankful I did not miss it.

1 comment:

Amy Landreth said...

Perfect race weather and so happy to hear you were able to finish. Impressive!