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Finishing the race: It's OK to be a little emotional

Running is awesome. I love it. I gotta admit it. And that’s a little surprising, coming from me. It’s absolutely astonishing for several reasons.

First, I am an admitted gym class dropout. Throughout the elementary and middle school years, I was the last one chosen for basketball, dodge ball, floor hockey, softball, or pretty much any other sport the gym teachers suggested. I hated gym class.

Plus, I have never been a fast runner. When the physical education department recorded students’ times for the 50- or 100-yard dash, I would cringe to see my name and time listed – way at the end of the list.

But here’s the kicker. Well into adulthood, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a major medical condition that causes balance issues, crazy-extreme fatigue, limb numbness, loss of coordination, and crippling vertigo. The MS symptoms come and go without warning.

So what do I do? I take up running. (This is where you are welcome to jump in with a little “What, are you kidding?”)

And there it is.

It started with a mile or two, plodding along close to home. That led to a few 5K races and a couple of half marathons.

That brings us to the emotional part.

Recently, I ran a half marathon in a nearby city. (That’s 13.1 miles, if you’re tracking with me here.) Joining thousands of runners (most of them drastically more fit than I am), I followed the route all the way through the downtown area, over bridges, along railroad tracks, up and down hills, and so on. The course finished with a lap around the track inside the city’s professional baseball stadium.

I gotta admit it. I am a long-time fan of a different city’s team. But, when I jogged into the tunnel under the stadium and out onto the track, I became a little choked up. I picked up my pace a bit, despite the fatigue of the long race, and I scanned the stands for a few familiar faces. I spotted my daughter and her friend, cheering for me and taking photos. I glanced at the scoreboard and saw myself projected there.

Crossing the finish line, panting with exhaustion, I bowed my head to allow a race volunteer to hang a finisher’s medal around my neck. Volunteer hands reached out next with a cold water bottle, a banana, a cookie, and a bag of salty snacks. (Trust me. Nothing ever tastes as good as those finish line snacks.)

Someone guided me to a finish line backdrop and snapped a picture of my teary-eyed and flushed-face self.

It was an emotional moment – maybe almost spiritual. At least, I caught the spiritual parallel of it.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
(Hebrews 12:1-2b, NIV)

I wasn’t gonna win. I didn’t even finish in the top third. But I completed the race, after a whole lot of huffing and puffing and praying – plenty of praying.

“Your race, your pace.”

That’s a motto among long-distance runners. But it fits the Christian walk too, I think.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Timothy 4:7, NIV)

Running a long race makes me think about Heaven. One day, we will finish the race, however long it takes and however hard it is. We will step into God’s glorious kingdom. The great cloud of witnesses will cheer us on. We will receive our reward for completing the course.

And then we will feast on the best finish line snacks ever. It will be OK to cry a little. The relief will be immeasurable, and the joy will be unspeakable.


Sneakers – public domain

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