A strange mixture of feelings engulfed me as I awoke Sunday morning: anticipation, excitement, fear, nervousness, hope, uncertainty, and relief. My feelings were justified. For you see, Derek and I were about to run in our first-ever 10K race, Georgia's own Peachtree Road Race, to be precise. Ever since I started working out two years ago, I had this goal in mind—to run down the streets of hot Atlanta, on the fourth of July, with 50,000 other people doing the exact same thing. Now it was time.
As our wave of runners approached the starting line, I had already been to the Port-a-Potty five times, because of the amount of water they tell you to drink before running, but mostly because of my hyperactive nerves. For an ardent observer like me, the visual and auditory stimuli were almost overwhelming at times. I watched the people intensely—how they prepared, what they were wearing, how they behaved. I heard the announcer on the loudspeaker, giving instructions, encouraging the crowd, counting down. I looked up and saw the enormous American flag waving over my head, and most of all, I felt the near-smothering intensity of the runners on every side of me. Truly, this is a day to celebrate and remember forever.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3
The crowd started running and we joined them. I set the timer on my watch, smiled at Derek and we headed off. We had discussed starting slowly, making sure we paced ourselves for the 6.2 miles looming ahead of us. In this case, it was easy to do that. The number of people surrounding us made a quick sprint near impossible. The feeling was exhilarating. A friend told me running the Peachtree could be compared to being in a parade. She was correct. There were bands playing upbeat music throughout the course. There were unknown fans on either side cheering for perfect strangers. And there was a feeling of expectancy in the air.
My prayer leading up to the race was that Derek and I would run the race marked out for us with perseverance and that we would run without growing weary or losing heart. I also had some personal goals. I did not want to stop running, unless absolutely necessary. Even if it was a very slow jog, I wanted to keep moving. Derek and I had also discussed the possibility of one of us running ahead in case the other one had to stop. We agreed, for the most part though, to stay with each other throughout the race.
Sometime after mile four, Derek looked at me, utterly exhausted and clearly struggling with the constant pain in his knee and said, "I have to stop. You go on." Really? Now? We just made it over the infamous "Cardiac Hill". We're over half-way there. We can do anything now. We're on the down-hill slide. Come on, Derek. Don't stop. Keep running. As much as he wanted, he couldn't keep going at that moment. He was in pain. He was wounded. He didn't want to fall. He needed to rest.
So, I had a choice to make in that moment. Would I run ahead of him, leaving him on his own, or would I stay? My heart was pumping. My legs were moving. I was experiencing what they call, "a second wind". I wanted to pick up the pace, and Derek needed to slow it down.
Therefore, in a very uncharacteristic, unselfish move on my part, I chose to slow down my run to a near stagnant jog. He earnestly tried to wave me on, saying, "Go!" I kept turning around, saying, "No, come on!" I stayed just a bit in front of him, constantly looking back over my shoulder to see how he was doing, watching runners who we'd passed earlier, whizzing past us. It was frustrating and honestly more than this competitive first-born could handle.
After a few minutes passed, I looked back impatiently, and saw Derek running to catch up with me. With huge smiles on our perspiring faces, we pressed on. Still trying to encourage him, I eagerly sought out the mile five sign up ahead and said, "Come on. This thing is almost over. We can do it." Those words became a mantra in my head, as well as, words I spoke to him as we passed mile six and came closer to the finish line.
As we sprinted downhill for the last part of the race, the action intensified. People seemed to be everywhere. A great cloud of witnesses, spectators, on both sides of the street, cheered us on toward our goal. I was overwhelmed with emotion at that moment. I looked over at Derek and said, "Give me your hand." I wanted to cross the finish line with my husband, hands held high in victory, celebrating our accomplishment.
"You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the One who calls you." Galatians 5:7-8
But as he reached out to grab my hand, out of nowhere, a woman cut in front of him, becoming this huge obstacle for him to avoid. She and Derek nearly collided so close to the final leg of the race. By the grace of God, and minus any major stumbles, he managed to get around her without injury and catch back up with me a few steps from the finish line. Amazingly, we had reached our destination. Race over. Mission accomplished.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24
Exhausted and trying our best to recover from the run, we followed the weary crowd toward the volunteers handing out souvenir bags. Only the participants who finish the race get their much-anticipated prize, the coveted Peachtree Road Race t-shirt. As the bag was placed into my hands, I held on to it for dear life. A feeling of pure exhilaration surged through me. So proud that we'd run in such a way as to get the prize. Our desire was to finish well, finish strong. We did. Together. Just the way we imagined when we started this adventure a long time ago.
"But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:57
Thank you, Jesus, for setting the ultimate example for us to follow. You endured the cross and never gave in to the opposition from all sides. You finished strong and were victorious. Specifically, today I pray for my marriage. As Derek and I approach our twelve-year wedding anniversary, may You continue to strengthen us, reminding us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on You, the author and finisher of our faith. May we run and not grow weary, nor lose heart, knowing that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Empower us to run in such a way as to get the prize--Your approval, Your affirmation, Your blessings. We are running a good race. Protect us from those people and circumstances that might try to cut in on us and keep us from obeying the Truth. May we finish well and finish strong. Thanks be to You, God! You give us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
July 7, 2010