That was one of thousands of signs we read this weekend at the Philly Marathon. Matthew was proud to run for his brother, Will, who recently moved overseas and couldn’t run as planned. His bib said, “Will”, and so the only people who cheered him on as “Matt” was us! Nadine, Heidi & I embraced the early morning and walked about 7 miles total ourselves! The free parking spot I found was in and of itself about a mile away.
First we ran to the one-mile marker and saw him whiz past us with a smile. The next stop was Starbucks for us. By the time we got through that line and walked one block to where the runners would be coming towards their 6-mile marker, he wasn’t far behind. To think, he ran 5 miles while we stood in line. I was nervous that I might miss him, because he was planning on ditching his jacket at that point. He actually saw us first, and I exchanged his jacket with an orange. Oranges have been known to see him through many miles.
About that time with the oranges and the 100 miles. A lot of people have mentioned how a marathon must be a walk in the park compared to the ultra he did last summer. It was just as mentally challenging, however, and since he was conditioned to run this distance and not much farther, it was plenty physically challenging as well.
One of my favorite things to do was yell people’s names as loud as I could and tell them how strong they looked, and what a great job they were doing. That kid running next to Matt in the picture above was pacing his dad. I saw them at the finish. I was super proud of their team! There were others we saw, helping loved ones get through the last mile. Our wonderful friends came to support Matthew, and Patrick ran a few miles with him. Our kids gave away high fives. It was where hardcore meets strength to carry on.
That was the best part. The determination, the will to do it. Standing on the sidelines was very special to me. Having gone through the pain of running farther than I thought possible, I can truly understand how huge an encouraging word from a complete stranger can be. It was a blessing to rally around Matthew, and others, and say, “Good job! You can do it!” Life is so much like that. Don’t we all need to be held up, encouraged, motivated and inspired? We all need to also be holding up, encouraging, motivating, and inspiring others! Is our walk just about the outward? See, in running, you can’t fake it. You either finish, or you don’t. You might puke, get a cramp, have to walk, or maybe cry. But you finish. In life, I think we too often fake it. We look so good. It’s so easy to pretend that we’re such good Christians because we do or don’t —- fill in the blank. It’s really scary not to fake it, though. Believe me, I know it. I really really don’t like to confess my weaknesses. I struggle daily with the same blasted issues that I slow down to a walk. Then sometimes I stop and sit on the ground and contemplate not finishing this race. This stinkin’ hard race of life. This race that was laid out before me by the One who ran it first. Jesus is cheering us on. He wants us to be more than conquerors. He wants us to get off our lazy butts and DO what He’s created us to do. Maybe it’s calling it quits on that addiction. Maybe it’s calling someone up and confessing our attempt to hide our stupid failures. Maybe it’s putting one foot in front of the other and getting uncomfortable. I know it requires vulnerability to be victorious.
I love the church. I don’t necessarily mean that time when we all meet together at the same time on Sunday morning, though I love that time. I love it when the church behaves like a well-conditioned athlete. Each body part is healthy and doing it’s share. When one person is unable to do something, another steps up to carry them along. I know that if Will could have run, he would have, but I love the picture of Matt running in his place because he wasn’t able to do it. It was such a privilege. How often do we let people take the hard stuff for us? And how often do we take the hard stuff for another person? Jesus did.
I love going to races. I’m always pumped up in my spirit. It feels like I just attended a huge huge church service, where thousands of people, some unknowingly, gave glory to God for His life, and the life He gave us to live. Our life should be more like one huge race. Our life, in real time, is messy. You can’t pretend to have blood, sweat, and tears while you’re running. In life, we need to be okay with showing our weak side and letting others help us. We also need to find someone’s name on their bib and yell it out as loud as we can, because it might just be the one last thing they needed to carry them on today. Let’s run for REAL!
Guess what I know? You can do it!