When I was younger, I was among those who ran because it was good for me.
My daughter-in-law, Jillian, is cut from a different cloth. She runs for pleasure. For relaxation.
I have a huge respect for her capabilities.
Jillian recently ran the Chicago marathon. It was her sixth–my first to watch. I thought I grasped the concept of 45,000 people running together. I’ve never seen anything like it.
They came in waves. The first ones out were those in wheel chairs, many of them war veterans. I can’t begin to explain the catch in my heart when they whizzed by, applause exploding around me. Such outrageous courage expressed in the bold determination on their faces was amazing.
And then came the blind runners.
I did say blind.
They were hooked to a guide or two by a strap around their waist which went to the wrist of the ones running with them. I watched with awe as these patient people matched paces with their unseeing partners.
Finally the first wave of of “regular” runners came, led by a group of Kenyans who were unbelievably fast and so graceful in the way they ran.
Jillian was in this first group–she’s the tiny one, waving, wearing neon green and purple–grinning ear to ear with the joy of the race and the chance to be running it.
The spectators were unbelievable. I’ve been to quite a few sports competitions in my time, and I’ve never heard the consistent encouragement and celebration of all the athletes that I heard in Chicago. People urging the runners on, shouting names written on shirts with words of praise for their participation. People clapping and cheering continually–and that’s a long time for 45,000 runners to pass you by.
I wondered why it took a marathon to celebrate life and differences. Handicapped and whole, young and old, fast and slow, every runner was a part of the celebration. Every runner mattered. There was recognition that this wasn’t easy, that to attempt this physical feat was not only challenging but a sacrifice. There was appreciation for those who had counted the cost.
To God, we all matter. So much so that He made it possible for us to know that we can have hope beyond this life. Our race has a greater significance, a grander prize, than the celebrity of a single winning run.
“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” ! Corinthians 9:24-25
Nobody chooses how or where we begin this race. Some of us are better prepared to run it than others. Our choice is in how we choose to run it and finish it. To celebrate the race with those around us. To finish well.
How are you running the race?
By the way, Jillian ran the race in 2 hours, 53 minutes, finishing 18th in her age group, 47th woman, 456th over all. Of 45,000 runners! That little gal can move!