The weather and the hills made it tough, but the folks in Joplin did a great job. The course support, from volunteers and spectators, and the organization made this a great run.
The course was well marked and staffed with plenty of volunteers to direct runners at every turn. There were very few spots on the course without spectators or volunteers, and all of these were friendly, helpful, and cheering on the runners. At one point I was running up a long hill. I was struggling, but also passing an older man who looked to be really struggling. A spectator called out to check on him. He was okay, but she was genuinely concerned and wanted to be sure.
The last two blocks before the finish line were crowded with spectators cheering us on, and thanking us for running their race. As I rounded the turn at Wall and 7th Streets, a lady in a wheelchair yelled, "Thank you from Joplin!" Tears came to my eyes as I finished the last 200 yards. I got more choked up finishing this race than I ever have.
"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
The race benefited the rebuilding effort in Joplin. Devastated by last year's tornado, the city is showing amazing resilience. The race directors used school buses to shuttle us from the hotel to the start line and our driver was great. He drove us through the hardest hit section of town. You couldn't look at it and tell a tornado swept through the area a year earlier. There were quite a few new buildings, but many lots were just empty, some with only a concrete slab. The debris was cleared and the rebuilding was underway.
That's why it was so touching to see so many supporting us--stopping traffic, marking turns, handing out water and gatorade, and cheering us on. After being hit so hard, these people rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They're a long way toward recovering from the storms, but still they were grateful for our willingness to come to their town and run their race.
The little part we were doing to help was hugely appreciated by the entire town. So I have to say too, I appreciate you Joplin--your hospitality and your perseverance impress me.
Now for the race.
A big thank you to the race organizers for starting at 6:30! I can't even hazard a guess at what my time would have been if we'd have waited to start at 8:00. I had a great first 6 miles, averaging just below a 9 minute pace. But the sun was getting higher and the temperature was getting warmer then. Things started getting really tough.
The long uphill at this point in the race didn't make it any easier, but the rising mercury was definitely the biggest factor. I don't know what the temperature was around 7:30, but I had to slow down and begin to walk a few of the hills. By mile 11, I was walking most of the hills and averaging over an 11 minute pace. There was quite a bit of time in the last half of the race that I wasn't sure I could break 2:10 at the finish, but Jesus Christ kept me going.
On the way to Joplin Friday night, I planned to shoot for a 10 minute mile. Like always though, that idea was forgotten when the horn sounded to start the race. The adrenaline started flowing and the pace of the crowd drew me in. In the end, I averaged the 10 minute mile originally planned and I realized that was God's plan for me during this race.
"And whatever you do,(AO) whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -- Colossians 3:17
After I slowed down and started taking walk breaks I thought about all the people passing me who wouldn't have if I'd kept up my original pace. They would not have seen the Bible verse on my back, or the pictures pinned to my shirt, if I'd have PR'd this race. Several told me it was their favorite verse, or that it encouraged them at a tough point in the race, and I realized this was God's plan.
Sometimes our competitive spirit drives us to push harder and faster than God has planned. Sometimes He lets us go ahead, sometimes He doesn't. Today though, when I had such a great time going for a while, but slowed down and made my original goal, I remembered that I'm not out there for my glory. The reason I run, my number one goal, must always remain to glorify our Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
The time I crossed the finish line doesn't matter, as long as He gets the glory!
Thank you again Joplin for putting on a great race and for being an example to us all. You are showing the rest of the country that just because you're knocked down doesn't mean you have to stay down. Your resilience, persistence, and perseverance are an example we should all follow, in running and in life.
God bless you Joplin!
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.