We sat on the couch at 4AM, sipping coffee. My body was numb from exhaustion and the caffeine wasn’t helping. As rain pelted the windows and the wind whistled against the house, my husband and I tried to talk him out of it.
“Buddy, how about if we find a 10K to run in the next few weeks? It isn’t your fault, but we really haven’t trained for this. And look, now its raining.”
My son glanced at each of us, disappointment written all over his face. In a soft, quiet voice, he determinedly reminded us, “But you said if I signed up for this I couldn’t back out. So why can you?”
I was proud of his quiet strength and surprised by his firm leadership. But frankly, I wished I hadn’t tried using his desire to sign up for a ten mile race a few months ago as a teachable moment. Because it was really coming back to bite me in the behind on this cold, rainy morning.
Back when we entered the lottery for the Twin Cities Ten Mile, this all seemed like a fun idea. But before committing $89 for his registration, we drilled into our son that ten miles is a long way. It could rain. He needs to train. And if we do this, he couldn’t back out.
But life happened over the ensuing months. Travel and work schedules derailed our training. I felt out of shape and ill-prepared for the race and my husband felt no better. And the one thing I swore to myself was that I wouldn’t run ten miles in the rain. Because I am not that big of a die hard runner. Not even close.
But there we sat, being gently and firmly reminded that commitment means something.
I googled how much time you could take to complete the race before being picked up by the sweeper van and mentally calculated how long it would take me to walk the entire race if needs be. Then I dragged myself off the couch to go change. Within a few minutes, we were headed into the city for the race.
As we made our way to the start, I contemplated the very real possibility that I would not be able to finish this race. But then I thought about my kids.
I thought about my daughter who was the last swimmer in the 500 meter race every time she swam it. But she always finished.
I thought about Violet running her first cross country race in ninety degree heat and coming in second to last. But she finished.
I thought about Ty who cried every day for eight months at the thought of facing another day in kindergarten. But he finished.
I thought about all the times my children have come in dead last – but they always finish.
So I stepped up to the start line and set out, one foot in front of the other, to run ten miles. I was ill-prepared. The race started in a downpour. I had to take more walk breaks than I care to admit. And I honestly thought the dumb thing would never end.
But I finished.
I am so grateful that my son pushed us past all the reasons we wanted to skip the race and dragged us to the start line. Because had he not, I would have missed out on the incredible inspiration all around me.
I stood in the coral behind a woman with a withered spine and knee brace. I overheard a mother pour encouragement over her young son for miles upon miles. I ran behind a cancer survivor and next to a young college student. Old, young, healthy and infirm … it was surreal to think of each unique individual out there covering the same distance but with drastically different personal goals and reasons for running.
I passed thousands of spectators cheering the runners and marveled that anyone would battle parking and road closures to stand in the rain for the sole purpose of encouraging one person they knew – let alone 10,000 strangers. I was offered refreshments along the entire course by an army of volunteers who worked nonstop for hours. And I became a puddle of gratitude.
I am no athlete, but I love how God uses running to remind me of larger truths.
So many times in life, when we face challenges and uncomfortable trials that loom large and seem hardly worth the effort, it is tempting to abandon course. In those moments, it is life giving when others to remind us to honor our commitments. My reminder came in the form of a 13 year old boy who took me at my word when I drilled into him the importance of finishing what your start.
All races are finished one step at a time, regardless of the length. If you keep doing the next thing, you’ll eventually make your way towards the finish. Also, and this is important, walk breaks and refreshments are allowed and there’s no shame in taking them.
You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest. Exodus 34:21
Running races are often billed as being individual in nature. But the reality is that there are collective aspects to every race. Yes, we all have personal goals and tasks set before us. But there are always fellow runners, volunteers and spectators who God will use to inspire, encourage, challenge and spur us on along the way. And when you take the focus off yourself, it makes for a much more meaningful experience.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1