Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Secret...

I would say that as a general rule, a marathon is not portrayed as a "fun" time. Most would probably think about 26.2 miles and groan. But over the past 8 months I have often wondered why, if running this distance is so horrific, there are people who have run copious amounts of marathons. Why put yourself through one miserable experience after another? I am about to tell you the secret. Running a marathon is, in fact, FUN!!! So fantastic in fact, that I am going to run another one in a week and a half:). The reason for this possible insanity is that I didn't get to finish the Chicago marathon. For the first time in history, the marathon was canceled due to heat. I was nearing mile 21 feeling not too shabby and excited about the finish line. No news could have been more disappointing at that moment, and I was devastated. But now knowing what was going on I understand why it needed to be done.

It truly was wicked hot, with the actual temp in the upper 80s to low 90s, but the temp on the road due to 35,000 runners on pavement soaring over 100 degrees. Evidentally people were dropping like flies, and in spite of increasing ambulance and medical staff before the race and adding more water to aid stations, there was simply no way to keep up. At one aid station we didn't get any water or Gatorade, and as we ran through a park about a mile later, many people were jumping into a large fountain and cupping their hands to drink from it. That was a scary (and thirsty!) point. But after that I didn't experience much trouble staying hydrated. However, people were passing out all over the course and eventually there were no more medics to care for them. One man from Michigan died on the course, and several others remain in critical condition.

For the most part I was in blissful ignorance to these happenings, and had fun running through every hose offered by spectators (which was MANY hoses). By staying soaking wet the heat didn't seem to bother very much, although I did get annoyed with having wet, squishy socks! The crowds were unbelievable, and the city of Chicago a delight to run through. Everywhere we turned there were more people lining the streets cheering us on by name (we wrote our names on our shirts). It didn't matter who you were or where you were from. There was a unity among the throngs of people that I have rarely experienced. My fellow runners were fabulous, and I felt a constant sense of comradery with them even as we fought our own personal battles to press on. Everyone had their own running strategy, which I found fascinating and learned valuable information just by watching other, more seasoned, runners.

It seemed that just when I was starting to feel tired, I would hear my name being screamed with more gusto than the spectators who were just reading the name on my shirt. I would turn to see the familiar face of a friend or one of my cousins and then have the delight of running with them for a couple of minutes before they sent me off. These moments were priceless! I scanned both sides of the crowds while running, often experiencing the weird sense of expecting to see faces that I knew wouldn't be there but wished they could be and somehow expecting to see them cheering, with cold drink in hand. It was the most surreal day.

When the marathon was canceled, my first reactions were anger and resentment. How could God allow something to be taken from me that I had worked so hard to accomplsh?! But that quickly changed as I realized how much more exciting it will be to finish the next one. Once again God is teaching me patience, and to trust Him when things don't make sense and don't happen according to MY plan. While running I sensed God's pleasure. Even though the race got canceled early, I felt that I had done my best and can't wait for the next one. Now my struggle is this... it has only taken me one experience to discover that I love running marathons. I would love to KEEP running marathons, but not if I run them only selfishly. Can I bring great glory to God, serve Him and love my neighbor by running?! I hope so, and I am asking Him to show me how. This is how you can be praying for me at the moment.

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