If I visualize a “runner,” I see lean, muscled arms and legs pumping rhythmically.  When I stood at the finish line of the Vancouver Marathon, however, I watched a huge variety of body types and strides complete a victorious run. Of course, some runners were jerky and awkward in their fatigue. A few seemed to be in pain and finishing more out of their personal reserves of determination than physical strength. Other participants looked as if they could keep on running with very little effort. A few athletes had even saved something in reserve and poured on the speed at the very end. Quickness at the finish of such a long run almost seemed showy and rude, but it was a race.

As each athlete crossed the finish line, they heard their name announced and the whistles and cheers of waiting friends and family. It was surprisingly moving and inspiring to watch strangers reach a goal amongst such encouragement. One tired woman rounded the last corner before the finish line, and two children burst onto the course. Each child grabbed one of her hands and ran the last few yards with their rejuvenated mother. Encouragers touch our hearts, the core of who we are—if we let them.

Recently I talked with a friend, Tom Burns, who ran the Boston Marathon this year, 2018. Tom explained to me how challenging it was to qualify—one must run a Boston sanctioned qualifying marathon and meet age-based time requirements. The fastest in each group are awarded entry until the quota is met. Sadly, all qualifiers do not gain access to the Boston Marathon. My friend was chosen and excited to run. Although Tom had long anticipated a very good run, he reported quickly dismissing any thought of his time once the race began. Of course, I asked, Why?

Melody, running marathons is a lonely sport. But, in Boston, people lined the route, start to finish, wanting to high-five the runners. Tom received high-fives from so many people, his right arm became fatigued! Twenty-six miles is a long run in the rain and cold. So-o-o-o, he changed positions in order to high-five his encouragers with his left!! My friend Tom chose to thoroughly enjoy the enthusiastic Bostonians and forget his time. How glorious to be so supported.

Tom was celebrating his retirement by completing the Boston Marathon. In so doing, he achieved a goal for which he had trained long and hard. Instead of focusing on the details of his own performance, however, Tom opened himself up to the people along the way and was immensely blessed.

Like running, life can be lonely. What if we lived our lives as Tom ran his race? Are we open to the joy and pleasure others may take in our endeavors? Who might be watching us, enthused and encouraging? Tom’s experience reminded me of my favorite line from the movie, Chariots of Fire. When I run, I sense His pleasure.

May each of us sense God’s pleasure and that of our encouragers as we pour ourselves into this race called life.

Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.