Marathon People


In the seven years that we have lived in Boston, we have rarely missed the Boston Marathon. The one exception was two years ago when we returned from Istanbul on marathon day only to find out that the tragic Boston Marathon bombing had occurred, changing the day from festive to fearful. The days that followed will not be forgotten and the marathon will be forever changed.

The other exception was this year. We were tired. We needed to remove ourselves from the urgent so that we could focus on the important. So Friday night we packed the car and headed to the Cottage and some time away. It’s early for us. Usually the Cottage is rented to others at this time of year, but this year things changed and so it was our weekend to reclaim this precious space.

And reclaim we did. From looking at the stars, to decorating and sorting, to having dear friends over for dinner and Dutch Blitz, we rested and reclaimed the gift of Rockport and the Cottage.

As we made our way back to the city, we saw some marathoners shaking slightly though covered in their silver warmth blankets. They had a proud, self-conscious look about them. They did it! They did this race and their silver coverings and marathon numbers still attached to their clothes are outward proof of this huge accomplishment.

These are the marathon people and I am in awe over what they have done. This is a world-famous race and people have worked and trained long, hard hours to be in this race. I am not an athlete, but I still know some of what it takes to train the body, to do things you never thought possible. And these marathon people? They have worked and willed their bodies and minds to achieve a goal.

Marathon people. If their coverings and numbers didn’t tell the story, their bodies would. No matter their age, they are fit, their bodies muscled and toned because of the discipline of training.

I realize as I look at them that I want to be a marathon person. I want to have goals and to do whatever it takes to meet those goals. I want to do whatever I’m doing with those thoughts in mind, with a discipline and tenacity that gets me through the difficult parts. I want to be a marathon person.

In the book of Hebrews in the Christian New Testament there is a chapter that is often referred to as the “Faith Hall of Famers.” It’s really a chapter about marathon people. Marathon people who kept on going, who didn’t give up, even when they didn’t get what they longed for, what they ran for. Their names were Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and so many more. The list is long and the stories are compelling. These were marathon people but they never took home a prize.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”

Their’s was a faith worth pursuing, a marathon worth running even if what was all around them seemed contrary to what they believed.

The stories of these Biblical marathon people make me think of a place in the Boston Marathon called Heartbreak Hill. Heartbreak Hill is famous in these parts. This is the last hill in the marathon. It rises a half mile and once you have come to the top, you can see some of the highest buildings in downtown Boston. You know that you have made it. It is considered the most difficult, absolute toughest part of the marathon course because runners reach this hill at mile 20 and 1/2 and they are so tired. But they have been trained and warned, and so they persevere, and at the top they know they’ve completed the most difficult part of the race.

In the Hebrews chapter I mentioned, all the people listed had many heartbreak hills, many points where there was no way they felt they could go on. Points where they questioned God and life. But they did it. They kept on going. Because they were marathon people. Some verses later in the chapter tell us that they were commended for being marathon people.

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

When it comes to life, I want to be known as a marathon person – someone who meets the difficult parts of life head on without fear and trembling, instead with determination and grit. I want to have at it with God’s grace and strength. I want my number and my silver blanket for warmth.  I want to be one of the marathon people. 

What about you? Have you run marathons? What does it take to be a marathon person? 

Verses from Hebrews 11, New International Version

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6 thoughts on “Marathon People

  1. You posted sparked several thoughts in my mind. When you said you were tired and we needed to remove ourselves from the urgent in order to focus on the important, was that a reference to the InterVarsity Booklet Tyranny of the Urgent? I look that booklet and try to re-read it each year. As I was reading, these words from Paul in Philippians also came to mind:
    Philippians 3:13-14New Living Translation (NLT)

    13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

    Being in the middle of my race, turned 50 this year, your words were a good reminder to press on!


  2. I love the marathon and all it teaches us as believers. I’ve been both runner and water stop volunteer. Here’s my Facebook post after cheering this year.
    “The marathon continues to teach me life lessons. I got the chance to be Encouragement dressed in an orange jacket in the wind and the rain. The cold and wind taught me once again that we can do hard things, that we can conquer. Occasionally while handing out Gatorade I cheered and the runner turned and smiled, we connected for an instant and ran on. We can do hard things. They make us better. Some years I run, some years I cheer. I always win.”


  3. Marathon Monday in Boston is such a special day to us. Since we are living too far away now to get there in person, we try to watch it somehow. Just this year found out the Boston Athletic Association streams it live on the internet beginning at 9:30. We watched from 10:45. We saw the third wave (the last maybe?) starting from Hopkinton and watched all three winners cross the finish line – the wheelchair winner a man from Sweden, and the women’s and men’s winners. As many times as I’ve been there or watched on TV, I never cease to marvel at the accomplishment of running 26.2 miles, up and down hills, in all kinds of weather.
    Your comparison with marathon people living life through heartbreak and struggle, never giving up is so good. I do believe you are one of them, Marilyn. We have to also remember that running this marathon of life is longer than 26 miles, and the training of every tough experience is used by God to prepare us for some steep hill ahead. It’s really all about hanging in there. In the beginning of Hebrews 12, it talks about running “with perseverance the race marked out for us” keeping our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1 & 2) That quality of perseverance is perhaps the most visible in the running of a marathon, and the most vital in living life as a marathon person.
    Thanks for stimulating my thoughts today!


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