Number 7597 on Marathon Monday

I am not athletic but when Marathon Monday comes on the first day of spring vacation in Boston I am a fan. The city is alive with people from everywhere. Pick your country and your language – it’s here. You have to dodge cameras (lest you end up in the Facebook photo album of a stranger)and tourists (who are staring up at skylines, oblivious to those of us below).

The Boston Marathon is a 26.2 mile race that goes from Hopkinton, Massachusetts and ends at Copley Square beside the Boston Public Library. Around 26,000 runners have come, representing every state, and over 90 countries. As for spectators? Over half a million of us will be on the sidelines vicariously sweating and cheering on the competitors. The race not only attracts élite runners but also a wheelchair and handcycle race.

This year we are celebrating entry number 7597. Carmen is a friend from Arizona who we met through our church. Beautiful and brilliant, Carmen is sure proof of a world that is not fair. As a third culture kid who migrated as a toddler from Canada to Ecuador, she has one foot on the ground and another foot in an airplane: since we last saw her four years ago she’s been in India, Uzbekistan, Spain, Paraguay and possibly some I have forgotten.

Carmen lives life with passion and that passion is contagious. Over lunch yesterday we talked about her journey to the marathon. It began in college at Arizona State University where she ran her first marathon with a time of 4:30. It’s safe to say she was hooked. The marathon that qualified her for the Boston event was in Tucson and she ran it in 3 hours 14 minutes (of course I would think anything is great time, but this really is!) This is beyond my comprehension so all I can do is sit back and admire.

Following the Tucson marathon a pivotal sports event for Carmen was the Worldwide Championship Duathlon held in Spain this past September. She qualified with 30 others to represent the U.S team at this event

As non sports people we wanted to know what she would eat for breakfast, what shoes she would wear, and if she was nervous. She’ll eat two Pure bars packed with dates, walnuts and protein and have tea. Her shoes? Take a look below and see her shoes! Is she nervous? Not really. I think it’s a “Chariots of Fire” thing – when she runs she feels the pleasure of God.  And this is what I love about this 26-year-old woman – she is taking this in her stride, enjoying everything that Boston has to offer, taking pleasure in God and running and at today’s marathon she’ll give it her best shot.

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Eric Liddell 

Day before the marathon
Shoes to take her the 26.2 mile marathon

Marathon Moments

Image by quinn.anya via Flickr

Yesterday Boston was alive with runners, easily recognized by the numbers on their shirts, their silver heat sheets, and the way they gingerly walked up and down stairs, their sore legs painfully attempting to navigate unfamiliar public transportation. Earlier in the day my husband had gone to mile 24 to cheer runners in the last brutal stretch before the amazing sense of accomplishment that is the finish line.

I am amazed at runners. I am not jealous but I am impressed. The discipline that propels them to a place where they are capable of running a marathon is compelling. As I watch them I realize they are all pretty normal. Some are old, some are overweight, many are young, and some are middle-age. They are common people accomplishing an uncommon task.

Like life itself, the marathon goes on despite weather or other conditions that may make running more difficult. If you qualify you run, despite winds that go against you, rain that soaks you, or the occasional unseasonable sun burning holes in your shirt. While yesterday brought about a ‘wind assisted’ run, other years are not so kind. In those years records are not broken, but the race is still run and the finish line is at the same place.

And the fans – some unable to ‘cross the athletic line’ and others, athletes themselves, cheering until their throats crack. “You can do it” “Go Jessie” “Great job – you’re amazing” – most of the cheers directed at complete strangers displaying amazing support in a city not known for its warmth and friendliness.

One can argue with good evidence that the race of life is a bit different and far harder but I still love the analogy. I picture those that have gone before me, those whose deaths didn’t seem to make any sense as they were young and so alive, and those who had lived to old age, solid in their journey of faith, cheering me on as I travel this path. Saying “You can do it Marilyn, You can do it!” “Great job! Keep it up” and other encouraging phrases, all designed to let me know someone is there, someone cares enough to stay along and cheer for me.

Sometimes I am more aware of the marathon moments of life than other times. When life is going along smoothly, my kids are safe and satisfied, the plumbing is working, bills are being paid, and my work likes me, I don’t think about the marathon moments. Today however is a marathon moment and in this moments as the wind assaults my speed in the form of tragedy, hurt, or restlessness, faith allows me to hear the cheering and finish the race, even though limping.

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.” Hebrews 12:1