Walking by Faith Alone

Archive for March 24th, 2011

Running the Race

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In Alaska each year, thousands of athletes take the extreme challenge of running a marathon over mountainous terrain, in a stressful environment, against varying weather conditions. The runners will experience miles of isolated areas, rocky trails, and untraveled territory. It is not a race for just any athlete and the numbers from start to finish dwindle as the hours tick away.  The winner last year crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 1 minute, and 51 seconds. Few marathons can compare with this one.

My son Will loves to run. He probably gets his love of running from his Dad who enjoys the challenge of a good race. Recently, Will entered his first 1/2 marathon. As a Mom, with 18,000 participants involved, I was nervous considering he is only 13 years old. On the flip-side, I argued, he is 13 years old and will do fine. As you can imagine, it was a struggle for me. He started out in the dark of the morning to cheers of onlookers. Men and women of all different nationalities filled various starting corrals – from A to Z – waiting for the sound of the voice that initiates the race.

1 Corinthians 9:24 – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize…”

The pounding of the feet against the asphalt echoed in my ears as I imagined the number of steps each would take to reach the end. At the seven mile mark, the race course splits. The half-marathoners run one way and the marathoners run the other. It is a difference of 13 miles as opposed to 26. “You are going to have to pay attention Will so that you don’t go the wrong way,” I heard myself repeating the instructions over and over to him, only to hear the typical 13-year-old response, “Mom! I know.”

 When I was thirteen years old, I had such a crush on this senior guy. He was handsome, funny, athletic, sweet, and he loved the Lord. Of course, to him, I was like a little sister. I entered a  6 mile race because I heard he was running and I envisioned the two of us stride to stride, breath to breath, mile after lonely mile…typical thirteen year old girl stuff. I still remember what he was wearing, gold Fighting Irish Football shorts and a white muscle shirt that said, “Hang in There, Baby.” Even though I was a great runner, at his pace, somewhere around the 4th mile I gave up on trying to keep up with him and frantically focused on trying to finish and not throw-up. To run and not complete the race without such an excuse as a loss of limb would be detrimental to my thirteen year old society ranking; however, to vomit would require my moving to an island off the coast of Cuba. By the time I crossed the finish line and witnessed congratulator hugs from his girlfriend to him, I decided there were other reasons to run besides him.

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

We waited for Will close to the finish line. My son Bo wanted to run the last mile with him and stood further down the course. The winner was a 28 year old, extremely fit male, who seemed to effortlessly round the corner toward the finish line. His goal, the announcer shouted from the loud speaker, had been 1 hour, 5 minutes and he came in just under that. Closely on his heels were others, rounding the curve, some faces grimmacing in agony, others panting, some joyful. I witnessed one lady lift the cross from around her neck up to her lips. Each person finding their way to endure, finish, and receive some form of reward – 1st female; 1st 65 year old and over; 1st non-adult. Two college age girls ran in fairy costumes with wings. One man ran in a spider man like body suit which covered his face. Another rounded the corner with a beer in his hand. Somehow, I missed my son. Bo ran the last mile with him. He crossed the finish line and while I stood nervously trying to spot his grey Nike running shirt, Will snuck up behind me, metal draped around his neck, with a smile from ear-to-ear – 1 hour 45 minutes and an interview with 11 Alive News.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Will later told us he knew God sent him encouragement. He explained that a man named Apollo took him under his wing around the 6th mile – Apollo had a son near Will’s age. The man had run in many marathons before, advising Will of his breathing and pace. Around mile 9, a female runner named Holly cheered Will on as they approached a hill, challenging him to the top.

How are you running this race? Maybe it is for the wrong reason, chasing after something that isn’t for you; maybe it is carefree, not interested in the outcome, just simply finishing; maybe it is without recognition or enduring obstacles or masked as someone else. Some of us have courses similar to the mountainous terrain of Alaska while others the paved streets of Atlanta with cheering onlookers. Whatever distance you are running, however steep or flat, whether alone or among friends, the victory that lasts is in how you run your race.

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

March 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm