me-and-hill-10-milerSo, most of you know that I run.  It has been a wonderful addition to my life for the last 5 years, and will continue to be a part of my life, as long as this body doesn’t completely fall apart.  Two years ago, I decided to train for my first half marathon.  Training was going well…was up to 9 miles, and I became pregnant with baby #6.  His due date was the very weekend of the race, so I deducted that that half was not to be.  ( That lady who ran the Chicago marathon at 38 weeks would call me a wuss.)  So I ran throughout that pregnancy, which was a first, including 3 5ks, the last one being at 29 weeks.

If you have never run in an actual race before, you are missing out.  The atmosphere is so full of energy…everyone is in a good mood…you all have a common love of running, so even though you haven’t met before, you feel like family.  When you run the race, the street is lined with encouragers, smiling, clapping, shouting “You got this!” or ” Way to go!”  And the finish line brings such a feeling of accomplishment, as the applause fills your ears and you catch eyes with strangers who are truly proud of you.  And don’t forget the free food at the end, and the awards.  I am hooked on the race scene.

Since having Jack a year ago, it’s been a challenging road to recovery with running.  Lots of aches and pelvis yelling at me on every run.  After each run, I would know how much of a victory it was to have completed it,  and often would wish others could understand how hard it was for me.  Nevertheless,  I’ve kept going, hoping it would improve with time. On October 15th, I endeavored to run the longest race of my career thus far, the 10 mile Run For Hospice road race in Greece, NY.  The marathon relay back in September had inspired me to push my limits a bit, so I registered for this 10 miler.  When race day came, it was cold and rainy, and I left while it was still dark,  with my friend Hillary Brower, to attempt my biggest feat yet.  Derek couldn’t come because he was home with the little kids, as big girls Grace and Joye each were gone to their own sports events.  So I was on my own.

As Hillary and I stood at the start line stretching, I scanned the other racers running this 10 miles, and had a scary realization…they all looked like hard core runners. ” Oh no”, I thought, “I might actually come in last.”   When running 5k’s (3.1 miles) the crowd is filled with all kinds…some winners, and some beginners, but this 10 mile crowd was lacking the usual ” I can probably beat that lady” type people.  I am not a fast runner, never actually contending for any awards.  I’m a finisher.  But I am competitive, and getting last would not be good. I started wondering how this one was going to go for me…

Bang!  The gun went off, and off I went. And that was the last I saw of Hillary, who is one of those hard core types.  Soon we were met by the huge 5k crowd, who would start 10 minutes after us, lining the streets, shouting the usual encouragements.  And it filled my tank…only 9 1/2 miles to go.  I can do this!

The first 5 miles were fine…I ran almost all of it with a kind, 68 yr old man named Bob.  I was able to keep my normal 11 minute mile pace with no problem and easy breathing.  It was windy and rainy, and by mile 7, I had lost Bob, and started to hit a wall.  People passed me as I struggled to keep going, one foot in front of the other.  By mile 8, it was mind over matter.  There was no one running near me..just me and my Lord. And then God sent Dave.  He was a 57 yr old man, who had been behind me the whole time.  He came up along side of me and we looked at each other, seeing a common struggle…and I said, ” Hey, how about we finish this race together?”  He said, ” Sounds good to me!”  So we leaned in, and just kept going. Mile 9…had been running for almost 2 hours…almost there, and we rounded the the final corner for the last quarter mile.

I was longing for that finish line, for that feeling of accomplishment and sense of common pride amidst my running family.  And then I saw it.  The last stretch and the finish line were empty.  Not a soul was there.  No clapping.  No shouting.  No proud eyes.  Only the one guy who had to beep my race number to log my time.  And he looked annoyed.

Dave let me finish in front of him, a true gentleman, thus letting me finish third to last (one lady had hurt her knee while running).  And when I realized that it was just he and I, standing in the mud underneath the finish banner with the clock reading 2:01:52, I turned, and hugged him, thanking him for staying with me til the end.  I had just accomplished the hardest feat of my racing career, and no one saw it.  I wanted to burst into tears.  I sort of held it together, and began limping the quarter mile back to the food and awards tent (where after-10-mileseveryone else was).  I had taken so long to finish my 10 miles, that the awards for the 5k were already going on, and to top it all off, most of the hot food was gone.

As I have thought about this whole experience, I have realized that I was focused on the wrong audience that day.  My Father in heaven was there at that finish…SO proud of his daughter.  He knew how hard I had trained, and how difficult the race had been for me, and He was beaming with pride and full of encouragement.  How often, especially as moms at home with little ones, do we do incredibly difficult things, with no applause or acknowledgment.  We live unseen lives, and need to remember that our God sees, and is a rewarder of those of us who seek Him with our lives.  And He doesn’t leave us alone…He sends Dave, aka the Holy Spirit, to walk (run) with us as we persevere.

Our finish lines are never empty.  We live not for the praises of man, but for the glory of God above, who is our Biggest Fan.  Let’s run our races with our heads held high.  And remember to listen for the One who says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”