It was January 10th, 2006 in Phoenix Arizona. I had just crossed the finish line of what seemed like the most grueling physical and mental challenge I had elected to put myself through. The last four miles of the half marathon were the longest miles I had ever run/walked or other wise travelled in my life. Pain started to hit me mile 9 and just continued to build in my legs as the run went on. By the finish, I felt like crying as pushed my limits to the point of shear pain. Crossing the finish line, I was awaited by my smiling friend. “Congratulations my man!,” he said to me. “Never again man. Never again.” That was my only response back to him.
January 20th, 2008, I was 7 miles in to the Carlsbad ½ Marathon. Funny how these things work. I can’t seem to be a man of my word when it comes to things I’ll ‘never’ do or vow ‘never to do again’. Over the past couple of years I have reached new heights with my training, and keep pushing to accomplish new things. I heard of this thing called the “San Diego ½ Marathon Triple Crown”- consisting of three local ½ marathon events in one year. I think you win a special medal or something, but whatever it is, I thought it would be a cool thing to add to the racing resume. Signing up for this first race in the series, I went in much better trained, and with a lot more experience under my belt. Or so I thought, as those legs began to ache about mile 7 or so.
I was pushing a pretty good pace for my ability. 8 minutes per mile on the nose. I felt pretty good, and just took in the sight of the ocean and the cheers of the crowds as they echoed over the music in my headphones. Of course I can’t help but thank God every step of the way for giving me the ability to participate in these races. It truly is a gift.
It was a little past mile seven, I saw a friend of mine on the sidelines cheering “Go Tim!”. He had a shirt on that read “GO TIM!!!” with an arrow pointing to the left. He jumped out on the course and told me he wanted to run the rest of the race with me. As you might of guessed, he ran on my right, and all of a sudden the crowds on the sidelines started yelling “GO TIM!!!” as they read my friend’s shirt and followed the arrow to yours truly. It was amazing, as I went from one of 5000 runners to the equivalency of a Rock Star out there with everyone yelling my name.
All sorts of things went through my mind as I ran next to my friend. I am brought back to the importance of friendship. The Lord tells us in Matthew 18:20- “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Does this mean that God is not there when I am alone? Absolutely not. Just like I felt God’s beauty and strength while running alone, he was there. I had the strength to finish the race on my own, but something magical happened when my friend showed up. I had accountability- I had to keep running. I had support- encouragement every step. I had a new reason to keep going. There is great strength in relationships and friendship.
The other aspect of this day was the arrow on my buddy’s shirt. He was saying “It’s all about you man. Not about me”. This is such a picture of what Christ’s love for us is all about. He gave it up for us. He runs with us, simply to bless us. Look at the marriages and relationships in this world, and it’s the couples that focus on each other that are the happiest. Christ gave it all for us, and in turn, we give it all up for him. It is beautiful really.
I crossed the finish line with a new PR. Could I have done it alone? Possibly. Would it have been as memorable? Absolutely not. We all have the ability to go through this life alone and accomplish many amazing things. This friend running with me that day was the same friend waiting for me at the finish in Arizona. It is really the power of friendship that can make life’s accomplishments all the more beautiful.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.