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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