Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Race

I was just a spectator, looking through the lens of a camera and marveling.  Men and women, young and old, all body shapes and sizes getting ready for the day of their life.  At least twelve to seventeen hours lie before them; grueling, tedious, never-ending, inspiring, unbearable, and remarkable.

They had trained for months for this one day.  What must be going through their minds as they put on their wet suits preparing to jump into the frigid water? There was no turning back now.  What if they failed?  Family members surrounded them with love and concern.  Children looked with pride at their daddy or mama. 

It was the Iron-man triathlon.  21/2 mile swim, 100 mile bike ride, 26 mile marathon.  It was unthinkable.  How was it even possible?

The sun rose golden over the water as 3,000 or more pink and green heads bobbed toward the starting point of the race.  As we leaned over the bridge to watch, we heard a loud cry, “Kayak, I need help.”  One man’s race was over before it had begun. 

For the rest of the long day, we followed the different legs of the race placing ourselves at just the right vantage point to get the best fleeting view of our two athletes.   We followed their progress based on an app, showing us where they were at any point in the race.  Then we watched and waited.  “There he is!”  Cameras up, we wave and shout encouragement as he rode by.  One group had T-shirts that said,

“Wait, wait, CHEER, wait, wait!”

As the day wore on, and the 26 mile marathon began, we could see the fatigue and determination etched on their faces.  Sometimes family members or friends would run a short distance with them giving encouragement.  Several times I saw an athlete stop, give his wife or child a kiss and with tears in his eyes, keep running.  I heard one little girl say, “Daddy, you have to finish!” 


Around 8:00 that night, we made our way to the finish line.  People crowded up and down the final raceway, shouting encouragement to the tired and exhausted racers.  Some could barely make it, just putting one foot in front of the other leaning toward the finish line.  Others had a burst of speed, wanting to finish strong.  Even though they were completely depleted, their faces shown with joy.  They had finished! We were so proud of them.

It was a surreal day, taking many of us, athletes as well as spectators, into a place we had never been before.  I thought about this day as we traveled back home.  How much like life this is: preparation, difficulty, pain, endurance, joy, patience, discouragement, encouragement, relief.  God is there along with all who have gone before us, cheering us on and welcoming us into eternal life.  I read this yesterday,

With the three divine Persons will be all those who have gone before us, delighted that we have at last arrived. In this life we often feel like lonely marathon runners, but then we will find ourselves emerging into a great stadium, with an immense crowd rising to applaud us. Surely then we will fall on our knees and cry, but our tears will be tears of joy, not of sadness. God will take us by the hand and present us to the gathered community in which everyone is totally on our side.”

It’s well worth the training.

2,658 started the day with 2517 finishing.

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