Last Saturday I crossed the finish line of the Country Music Half-Marathon – having finished the 13.1 mile run in soaking rain for two plus hours on the streets of Nashville! This was my first 1/2 Marathon and I picked a doozy to start in…….rain was falling at an inch an hour which ultimately ruined my phone and my ability to listen to music, podcasts, or the news.
So I thought……and thought…….and thought some more.
About mile 4 I began to think that my running this race was much like my parent’s 50 year marriage. A month ago they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with the minimal fanfare they requested – a testament to so many things that are true in marriage and in marathons. And then I only had 9 miles more to think about marriage and marathons!
I decided to run the race several months ago and spent much of the winter training. I’ve always been a fair weather runner – very willing to run when its sunny and warm – but avoiding the winter rain/snow runs at all cost. But in order to make it through to the end of a race in April, I had to make the decision to run in spite of my comfort. So in November, my wife and I began the training – of runs in the cold, on the hills, and even in the snow (which turned out to be one of the most spectacular experiences). Most days never felt ‘good’ – and certainly in the beginning I pretty frequently didn’t think i could make 6 miles, much less 13, but we kept running.
I truly believe my parents made a similar decision. I wasn’t privy to any of their “Come to Jesus” meetings over the years (except the ones that concerned me) – but having now been married for almost ten years, I know that they had to have pressed on in their training, even when the circumstances in their marriage weren’t comfortable or convenient.
My parents also knew they wouldn’t be able to make it on their own – and so they surrounded themselves with encouragers – fellow ‘runners’ who would keep them on pace and get them to their goal. It was overwhelming to be surrounded by 30,000 runners (and sometimes frustrating when trying to keep your pace) – but there was great community in the process that made those first 7 miles not seem as bad.
I’d love to think it was my personal fitness that made the run seem smooth, but in truth it was running alongside the tapestry of people – the lady with a completely bald head who must have had cancer; the dad pushing a running stroller with a child with Downs syndrome; the guy with no legs but running on blades. All of these individuals made my limited exhaustion seem not so bad.
AND then there were crowds on the streets (and the bands every few miles). These gracious people had donned their rain jackets, umbrellas, and their rain boots to step out on that miserable Saturday morning to encourage – to cheer, to give out water and gatorade, and to tell me that I was almost there. Incidentally, I personally loved the women at mile 2 who was screaming “You’re doing great – You’re almost done”……Liar!
My parents have modeled for me and my sister the value of surrounding yourself with encouragers with whom to walk through life. My mom still has a girls weekend each year with some ladies with whom she went to college and even one lady that has been a friend since Junior High (50+ years!). Encouragers who have been on the streets in the sun and the rain telling her that “She’s gonna make it”
They also have been blessed with an amazing church where they have connected and served and found close friends who have cheered them on. When I was growing up some of my fondest memories are Saturday night dinners with “The Gang” – a group of 9 families who shared life together. Together we experienced baby births, and later high school graduation, then college graduations, weddings, and now grand-babies births. We celebrated Christmas Eve together, vacationed together, went to eat after church on Sunday and lived life together. Basically stood on the streets for each other and cheered.
I don’t know if my parents intentionally set out to have ‘community’ – I should ask them that one day – but I’ve been blessed by the by-product of it. I had not one, but 9 sets of parents in whom I could see Christ, in whom I believed loved me unconditionally, and in who I knew would stand and cheer for me – even in the rain!
I did see some runners stop and walk – and even sit on the curbs – but most kept running in spite of the awful conditions. “The Gang” has experienced some divorce, and a death of a spouse, but the majority of these couple have kept running – heading toward the finishing line and modeling for this kid what it looks like to run, regardless of your circumstances.
There was probably a time where I didn’t think that I would get married – in part because I didn’t know if I would ever find someone where I could have the marriage like my parents. Thankfully, the Lord blessed me with my own encourager who has “run” these last ten years with me. She had run the 1/2 marathon before – so she let me do this one, but she still trained with me to be sure that I could make it. She ran the long runs with me on the hills, and in the snow to get me ready. We had long talks, even some pretty good fights – and one 10 mile run with me in Dallas and she in Franklin. That day she texted me every few miles to make sure I was going to get my miles in! I clearly wouldn’t have made it to the end last Saturday without her help!!
I’m not sure what the finish line is in a marriage – I might argue that 50 years is pretty darn close to it! Because I waited so long to marry, I may not make it to that milestone – or if i do, I probably won’t remember it! There was a sweet euphoria when I crossed the line last Saturday morning. I was drenched. My legs were burning. I was hungry. But I was finished – I had accomplished the goal I had set 6 months ago!
I believe my parents have accomplished theirs as well. They raised two kids who both went on to marry great people – and whom have awesome kids of their own. And they survived 50 years of moving, job changes, kids and drama (especially from their daughter) 🙂 – and they still hold hands when they walk. My dad cares for my mom when her MS is causing her to not be 100% – and my mom still laughs at my dad’s jokes – and every once in a while, joins her on the dance floor of their living room. They have modeled for their kids unconditional love and finishing strong!
I think they’ve crossed the finish line – and I pray that they are getting all the praise and encouragement they deserve from a race well run!