Marathon Reflections

| November 3, 2012

30,000th Place?

30,000th place (well, technically 30,308th place, but it’s easier to just say 30,000).  That was where I finished in the 2012 Chicago Marathon.  I was 30,308th out of 37,455 runners who finished the race.  After the marathon, many people were so kind in asking me how it turned out.  Many of them asked me what my final time was, and I told them that it was 5 hours 19 minutes.

A few people, on the other hand, asked me what place I finished in.  Now, I don’t know if they were expecting me to say 10th or 65th or 112th.  When I would answer, “30,000th place,” some people looked shocked that there is such a thing as 30,000th place, while others let out a surprised laugh.  I know that they did not mean anything by this – after all, it’s not every day that someone says they finished a race in 30,000th place.  But my point is that I am happy to say that I did!

You see, training for and running two marathons has solidified what I already knew: you do not have to be a super athlete to accomplish a significant athletic feat.  Average Joe’s like me can do it, too, if you believe that you can and if you rely on God’s grace.  Yes, I came in 30,000th place, but I also finished 1 hour and 11 minutes ahead of the official cut-off time, so I am just as much a marathon finisher as the thousands of people who finished in front of me.  So to all of the back-of-the-packers like me, I say: Nice job!  Slow and steady wins the race.  And to anyone who might be considering running a marathon for the first time, or challenging yourself to do something else that you never thought possible, I say: go for it!  Even if you don’t succeed, the effort you put into making the attempt will forever change you, because you will stretch yourself to go beyond your limits.

And if you do succeed, there’s nothing quite like that feeling of seeing your hard work (and God’s grace!) pay off.  When I received my medal at the finish line this year, I think it was actually more moving than at my first marathon last year.  Receiving that first medal brought much excitement.  Receiving the second medal brought much emotion, especially since I beat my time from last year even though I am a year older.  As I approached the race volunteer who put the medal around my neck, I’m sure she could see the tears welling up in my eyes.  She congratulated me, I sincerely thanked her, and as I continued to walk down the finish chute, my legs screaming in pain, I kissed my medal and held it to my forehead, thanking God that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).  May you strive to do all things, too.

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