running

The Race Marked Out for Us

Manhattan is a special place any time of year, but it was particularly stunning on Sunday, the 3rd of November. The sky was blue and endless, the air was crisp and chilly, and the pavements were packed with bright-faced well-wishers, cheering their hearts out for the 60,000 runners who had made it into the New York City Marathon that day. My best friend is no marathoning novice—NYC was her fourth marathon, so she went into the morning confident. So confident, in fact, that she’d had no qualms about walking 11 miles the day before, taking in the sights with her husband and 17-year-old daughter, and me and my new hubby.

My husband and I had risen early on Marathon Sunday to catch her at mile 5, not too far from where I used to live in Brooklyn. She was running at a steady pace, and when she saw us at our pre-planned meeting spot, she threw her arms in the air and started talking a mile a minute. Her eyes were bright and her energy was high. A great sign of things to come.

She ran off, and we ran for the subway. We had about 90 minutes to get back to Manhattan, meet her husband and daughter, and make our way to the marathon route to catch her at our second meeting spot. She arrived not long after we’d settled in, and though she was still in good spirits, she looked tired. We gave her some food and a few hugs and sent her off again.

We didn’t have a planned meeting spot for our third rendezvous, but we told her we’d text her to let her to know where to look for us. We dashed for the subway again and ended up in Central Park halfway between miles 23 and 24. But by the time we settled on a spot, her phone had died and our texts weren’t going through. We were tracking her progress on the NYC Marathon app so we knew where she was, but she had no way of knowing where we were, or when (or if!) she would see us again.

We waited a long time for her to come. When she finally rounded a corner into view, we started shouting her name and waving our arms with glee. She ran to the side, but this time there were tears in her eyes and she dared not stop. “I just need it to be over,” she shouted as she passed us with heavy feet.

We watched her carry on around the bend and my husband looked back at my best friend’s 17-year-old daughter. Her face said it all: she just wanted to be with her mother. He said, “Shall we catch her?” She said, “Yes.” And before we knew what had happened, they sprinted off down one of the many winding paths of Central Park, leaving the rest of us behind. Neither of them was familiar with Central Park. Only one of them had a working phone. They barely even knew each other. But they took off with a common goal. They couldn’t let her run alone.

And they caught her! They cheered her on from the sidelines again and again the last three miles of the race—sprinting and cheering, and sprinting and cheering. They refused to stop until they could see the finish line.

As she was limping back to the hotel that evening, her finisher medal swinging from her neck, she said, “All I wanted to do was stop running. I wanted to walk. But then I saw those two running next to me and cheering me on. They gave me the strength to keep going.” She crossed the finish line 18 minutes earlier than she expected to.

If ever there was a real-life example of how we should be supporting our missionaries, I lived it in New York on the 3rd of November. You see, my best friend’s daughter was not a runner before that day. My husband is a runner, but he’s never (yet) run a marathon. But they saw an experienced marathoner struggling and they both upped their game to help her to the finish line. They didn’t make excuses like “I’m not wearing running clothes,” or “I’ve already walked 10 miles today,” or “I don’t know the way.” They just went. And their going not only helped my best friend finish the marathon; their going also inspired her daughter to start running. Now, back in Alabama, my best friend and her daughter run together.

So let’s get alongside our missionaries! Let’s not make excuses like “I don’t know them that well,” or “I don’t have enough spare cash to give,” or “I don’t have time to pray,” or “I couldn’t possibly do what they do.” Instead, let’s up our game and get running so that we can all cross that hard-earned finish line together.