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

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Little Rock Marathon in the Books!

The Race

Marathon #2 is in the books! By the grace of God I finished the Little Rock Marathon on Sunday in 5:08:17, 14 minutes faster than I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

It wasn't as fast as I'd hoped, but I was blessed in ways other than meeting my time goal. I started the race with two friends from the Cabot Country Cruisers, our local running club, with whom I had trained extensively. Most Saturdays we had all run together at least for part of our long runs leading up to this marathon.

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."--Ecclesiastes 4:12

We started with the 4:40 pace group, planning to stick with them through the biggest hill on the course. At mile 16 we planned to evaluate how things were going and decide whether to speed up, slow down, or keep with the pace group.

Between miles 11 and 12 though, one of my friends began to have trouble. This was her first full marathon and we decided to stick with her. No hesitation, no doubts. We just decided on-the-spot that was how it was going to be. We started together. We'd finish together.

She protested and told us to go on, but we refused. It took me back to the Marine Corps Marathon when I told my friend Jesse to leave me sometime after mile 22. He didn't leave and kept me going to the finish line. I honestly don't know if I would have been able to keep going that last 4 miles if he left me. So this was kind of a chance to pay-it-forward.

We crossed the halfway point at 2:18, but the struggle became tougher and tougher as the course wore on. The 4:40 pace group passed us around mile 14 and just kept going. By that time though, any time goal had been erased from my mind and the one goal I wanted to accomplish was to help my friend get across the finish line.

So the three of us plodded on, ticking off the miles.

We hit the River Trail portion of the course, the dreaded long out and back. Six miles of straight, flat, boring road to conquer. By now it was a run-walk we were doing as we passed mile 18. But we were still moving forward. The turnaround at about 20 3/4 miles seemed to take forever to reach, but we finally made it. By now we were walking more and running less.

On and on we went, finally leaving the trail and stepping back onto the street. After another mile and change, we reached the 24 mile marker. We ran from there to the bottom of the railroad overpass in front of Cajun's Wharf, then walked to the top. Then we ran from there to the bottom of Dillard's Hill. As we walked past the 25 mile marker, more friends from our running club cheered us on and gave high fives as we passed.

We walked on to the top of that dreaded hill, then began to run again. Something about the last mile in a long race, we didn't have to stop to walk again. The crowd cheered as we reached the finish line, all four of us crossing.

Nobody had dropped out. Helping someone else, a friend and training buddy, cross the finish line for their first marathon was worth more than any time goal could ever be. There will always be more races to reach that goal, but there would never be another chance to help our friend succeed in her first marathon.

Though the time wasn't what we hoped for when the gun went off, it was still a great day and I was blessed to be a part of it.

Training Week: Feb 27 - Mar 4

Monday4 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday0 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday4 miles
Saturday0 miles
Sunday26.2 miles
Total40.2 miles

The Wall

During the Marine Corps Marathon in October, my first full, things began to go bad by mile 17. The dreaded Wall. Then things went really bad by mile 21, and I don't even know how to describe how bad they were by mile 23. This time wasn't so bad. I never even really felt bad until mile 22, and then it was only because my legs began to cramp. I really couldn't even call it a wall.

After MCM my whole body ached and I honestly wondered if I could make it back to the hotel. I even laid down in the street when Jesse and I made it to the family link up area to wait for our wives and kids. Agony is the best word I can think of to describe how I felt after that 26.2 miles.

This time? Not so much. I was tired and my legs were sore, but I walked around, sat down, ate a little and never really felt just awful. There were a few cramps in my legs for the next couple of hours, but not the seizing kind that contort your body into the shape of a deformed pretzel.

Not sure if it was because I was better trained or if my body is starting to learn that no matter how much it doth protest, I'm going to torture it with 26.2 miles anyway. Whatever it was, this marathon didn't result in anywhere near the discomfort and pain that I experienced after my first.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

That verse is always on my back during races and always draws comments from people passing me or runners whom I pass, especially late in the race. Little Rock was no exception.

This was also the first marathon I ran with pictures of victims of teen substance abuse pinned to my shirt. Several commented on them and a couple asked me about them or about Amanda when they spotted the "Running with Amanda" stenciled on the front. Two women even came up to me in the starting corral and introduced themselves as followers on Facebook. Word is getting out, but not yet spreading as much as I'd like.

I saw a young couple running with a picture pinned to their backs and asked about the lady they were carrying. She was a 21-year-old friend of theirs who had planned to run the half Sunday, but took her own life recently. They were running to raise awareness of suicide.

We passed another young man in front of Mt. Saint Mary's at the top of Kavanaugh who had a name printed on the back of his shirt. He told me it was his aunt that passed last year and he ran to remember her.

I wish none of us had a need to run in memory of a loved one, but was glad to see several out there running for something more important than pride and vain glory.

"I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."--John 11:42

I had never given any real thought to my bib number in races before the other day. That was when someone on Facebook pointed out my bib in the first picture I posted as the Running with Amanda profile on Facebook was number 413, as in Philippians 4:13! I had never even made the connection.

So when I learned my bib number for Little Rock this year, I immediately began looking for a biblical connection. And this is where the Lord led me, John 11:42. The connection leaped out at me.

You see, I know full well that I would be nothing without Jesus Christ. I know I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today if not for the hope and peace that comes through knowing Him as my Lord and Savior. Jesus is the only reason I can keep going after losing Amanda. There is no earthly explanation. He's it!

I know that, without a doubt. I know that He heard my cries and answered my prayers and gave me this mission so that I can continue the work He has for me until it's time for me to join Amanda in Heaven.

But I also know that part of the reason He gives me the strength to keep going is so that others may see Him working through me. I hope and pray that I can fulfill the mission He has given me, to spread the Good News of salvation through the living Son of God. That's why He gave me this mission, and that's why He gives me this voice.

So I see some significance in the bib number for this race, and I hope it helps others see that my ability to run a marathon is not really my ability at all, but His grace. Without the blessing and grace of Jesus Christ, I can't put one foot in front of the other, not even to walk a short distance, let alone 26.2 miles.

Next week-->Chase Race and Paws in Conway, Arkansas

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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