Sarah pointed to the 13 mile marker and held out her hand for a quick high-five.
“Our time is right where we wanted to be, Lori. And I feel good!”
I agreed and grabbed some water at the water station. “I think we will see our families in about two miles. Can’t wait to see their faces.”
My second marathon was already a completely different experience from my first.
It was a beautiful day, I was running with a dear friend, and my body was a little more prepared for this race.
As we neared mile 15, we spotted our kids and husbands, jumping up and down, waving with excitement, our biggest fans. I smiled for the next half mile, eager to see what the rest of the race would hold.
And then we hit mile 18.
Within seconds, I started doubting my ability to run the rest of this race. I tried to shove the thought from my mind and begrudgingly asked Sarah some random question because conversation made miles go a little faster.
“I’m done talking,” she groaned.
I laughed a little and said, “Oh good. Me too. I hate this.”
We turned the corner and gasped as we saw the biggest hill waiting for us. We decided to walk for a couple minutes, and I did my best to ignore the shooting pain that was creeping into the back of my leg. We finally convinced each other to start running again, and we were on our way.
We crawled through another mile and saw an unexpected friend on the sidewalk, waving enthusiastically in our direction. She explained that she planned to meet another friend of ours, but couldn’t find her. Sarah and I confirmed that her friend had passed us several miles before. She shrugged and said, “How about if I run with the two of you for a few miles instead?”
Sarah immediately came to life and began non-stop chatting with our new running friend. I gave her grief for the next half mile (ok, for the next 13 years) about how she had been “done talking” just minutes before, and I would do my best to not take major offense at her newfound joy in conversation. We all laughed and found that the next mile or so actually did move a little faster and for that I was grateful.
We trudged along for the rest of the race. Our mile pace mirrored that of an enthusiastic snail, and it looked like we probably wouldn’t make our time goal. The pain in my leg continued, and we all just encouraged each other to keep going.
It wasn’t a pretty sight when we crossed the finish line, but we finished. We hugged each other at the end of that race so thankful it was over and so grateful we did it together.
Thirteen years later, that race still gives me hope. It serves as a reminder to me that this race of life we run is not easy. Some seasons seem to fly by with ease, but others are painful and , if I am honest, often tempt me to drop out of the race.
Three simple lessons I always carry with me that I learned from that race:
Sometimes, it is really painful to keep going. As much as I wish every mile was like mile 15 of that marathon, if just doesn’t work that way. Some steps are so painful, I just want to stop talking and stop running all together.
It makes such a difference not to run this race alone. If it weren’t for Sarah, I don’t know if I would have finished that marathon. Community makes a difference and helps me to feel like I can keep going even during the dreadful seasons that threaten to swallow me whole.
All of the pain, fatigue, and doubt did not diminish the joy when we crossed that finish line. In fact, the celebration might have been even more significant because of the suffering we survived in order to finish.
While I love running for the fitness and the endorphins, I love it more for the way it mirrors life. I pray daily that that the Lord would give me strength to stay in the race.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1