I paused mid way through the KC “half” Marathon to snap a selfie.
This is what I love about running mid pack in a half marathon. It is not cross country meet serious. Everyone mid pack is kind, laid back, encouraging (maybe the leaders are like this too – I wouldn’t know!). Need a bathroom break – no problem. Stopping for a selfie, that makes perfect sense.
And it was not just my fellow travelers. The route was lined with cheerleaders. They shouted encouragement and rang cow bells. They held up clever signs, like “All Toenails Go To Heaven!” and “Never Trust a Fart!” (Sage advice on more than one level.) And there were snacks all along the way.
There was the expected drink stations – which gave me a bucket list moment1 – as I grabbed a cup from a hand as I ran. I quickly drank it and tossed the cup away – stomping with the power of my foot fall… but the poweraid got everywhere, and I was left sticky. So the next time I took it slower and threw my cup into the trash bin (Life rarely lives up to my imagination).
But it wasn’t just drink stations. There was a guy handing out Oreos and multiple people offering orange slices. Along with countless “friends” giving high fives. And Megan saw a runner – when the port-o-pottie was out of reach – ask to use a restroom in one of the houses we passed.
This is how life should be lived. Community. Encouragement. Snacks. Hebrews 12 urges us to “Run the race marked out for us” and I have always pictured my high school cross country meets. Long running spikes. A battle. Everyone for themselves.2 But today I had a vision of another way. Everyone running together. Helping each other along the way marked out for us. Encouraging. Joking. Smiling. Celebrating.
And today when we finished, it wasn’t only one who got the prize. Instead we each received a medal placed over our heads. Victorious. And this, I believe, is life in God’s kingdom. So as the church, let us go out as encouragers. Let us act like a snack station, with clever signs (Just like toenails, even heels can go to heaven!). Let us lay Joy before the world. So that everyone may join the race and find salvation.
1 For some the run would have been on the bucket list — but I try to keep my list away from any painful running! And so I add runners cup drinking…
2 I think that image – the race as a competition – is what Paul refers to in 1Corinthians (“Run in such a way as to win the prize.” 9:24). But the author of Hebrews (unknown) is not as intense as Paul. I think this writer might capture different angle – the race as community.