"THAT was so fun!" My words after experiencing my first Mercedes Marathon Weekend. I have the privilege of teaching elementary P.E. at Gathering Place Christian Academy, and I decided last summer that we would participate in the Kids' Mercedes Marathon. The kids started in September logging miles. They each had to run 25.2 miles by the end of January. Last Saturday they completed their marathon by running the last mile and crossing the same finish line the Marathoners would cross on Sunday. What an accomplishment these kids have made! I am so very proud of them! Not only did they achieve amazing personal goals, but they motivated their teacher.
I decided to up my game a bit. My longest distance before February was 5 miles. So, I decided to see if anyone would be interested in running the Marathon Relay. It's 26.2 miles broken down into 5 different legs. Each runner runs a certain distance, and as a team, you complete a marathon. How fun does that sound?! So, my new goal was to run 6.05 miles, the 3rd leg of our marathon. There were days that I would get so nervous thinking about race day. What if I couldn't complete it? What if I fell? What if I hurt my foot? And my biggest fear...what if I failed my team? I knew that all of this would only be defeated by knowing that through my Savior, I can do anything! That is the truth, friends! He sustained me, He strengthened me, and He caused me to endure.
So, my goal was set, now I just needed some crazy people who would agree that, they too, wanted to do something so crazy fun. Let me introduce you to them. Our school, GPCA, ended up sponsoring our team. Thanks GPCA! We also had a team in the 5k on Saturday. What an awesome school, with awesome support!
Mikey Keith, runner # 1, started us off with a strong leg! Mikey is an inspiration, and we had the honor of being his teammates as he completed his second full marathon! He is our youngest member on the team, and he and his wife, Julie, are expecting their first child in July. He is also the brother-in-law of teammate #4, Jennifer. Jennifer suggested Mikey as one of our strong runners, and we are so glad he obliged us. Mikey finished his 6.05 in 47:47, and he was 15 out of 250 runners for his leg! He took home the third place trophy in his age division in his latest 10k! He continued to make us proud as we watched him cross the finish line in under 4 hours! Whoop whoop!
Myron Fisher, runner #2, is a Marine – need I say more?! He was recruited by his sweet wife, Yolanda – who is my partner in crime at GPCA. He, too, was chosen because of the strength he could give to our team. He had the hills, and the speed to do it. I told him very little of what we needed from him, but he did not wavered in his commitment to us. I am honored to be on a team with someone who has fought for our country. Myron served us all in Iraq, and now he serves us as he shares this leg on our team. His 2.95 was a quick jog through the park at 26 minutes, and he came in at 22 out of 250 runners for his leg!
Ashley Morrison, runner #3 – me. I began running about 6 years ago. I took a girls’ beach trip, and had planned (and practiced) to run a straight 2 miles for the first time since high school while on this trip. I did it, and ran my first 5k that summer. I rarely run over 3 miles at a time, but last summer I set a goal to run 5 – yes, all at once. My next goal was to run 6.05 in the Mercedes Marathon Relay, and my team helped me reach that goal. I am not a strong runner, just a steady slow runner. "I WILL finish in front of the balloon lady!" It helped to have Mikey and Myron in front of me! So, my goal was to finish in under 1:20.I finished in 1:17:28! My ranking was the lowest on my team, but honestly, I'm still proud...117 out of the 250 runners that ran my leg!
Jennifer Eidson, runner #4, has been my running companion more than any other person, and we both started up our running regimen in the same year. I’m so glad we’re doing this together! She is strong, and she is a runner! She has been smoking me on our runs together lately. She was once the Balloon Lady in our Big Springs 5k, while she was pregnant AND pushing a baby in a stroller. She’s awesome! We call ourselves 2Mamas8kids, and I love that I get to hand off the chip to her. Her most encouraging statement is, “This will be fun!” She planned on finishing her 3.05 in around 35 minutes - and that was exactly what she did! My girl finished 86 out of 250 in her leg!!!!!
Tammy Mathews, runner #5, brought us home in style! Tammy is the female definition of inspiration. She picked back up her running shoes a few years ago on her journey to losing 80 pounds! This is her thing, y’all! She has come in first place 3 times in the Big Springs 5k, in her age group, and once overall for the women. Second place in the Power Run, 3rd overall (women) in the Crosspoint Run, Second in the Jingle Bell Run, and this is not all! Tammy has been my friend since we cheered together in junior high, and I am so glad that she agreed to run our longest, 8 mile, leg. She is thrilled to do it, which makes it even better! She planned to finish in under 1:17. She came in at 1:14:04! 57 out of 250 in the longest leg of the relay!!!!
We all waited to see Tammy come to the finish area, and we all got to run (chase her) across the finish line! She is so fast...even at the end of her race! We all have a race set before us. Each of us is called to do something different. Each of us is given different strengths and abilities in order to get our job done. In case you didn't catch it, I just went spiritual. ;) I want to share with you a little more about what my Jesus taught me through my training, and my race. We finished 64 out of 250 teams. Go MidKnight Runners!
I've never run a race as an "official" team member. There is something bigger about the goal for your team. I'm not a big individual competitor, but put me on a team, and I see the purpose. This was so much fun to me, and the biggest reason are the names, besides mine, listed above. I love that this was my team - our team!
First, I must explain the balloon lady. She was, after all, a huge motivator for me! During the third leg, the half-marathoners would finish their race, and the marathoners and the third leg relay runners stayed to the right. The Balloon Lady was walking at a pace of 13:44, and if she passed you in the third leg, you would be directed to the Half finish line, which meant legs 4 and 5 would NOT run, and the running that runners 1 and 2 ran would have been in vain, and your team would be disqualified. No pressure. So, every practice run had to be under 13 minutes per mile, because you do what you practice. I had day horrors (never nightmares) about seeing her on my runs. I would find balloons in odd places - no joke! In my head she looked like a scary clown. In my spiritual run, the Balloon Lady is everything I'm afraid I will fail. She is my own insecurity, she's my fear of the unkown, my fear of making the wrong choice. My fear of not meausuring up to ...whatever.
Let me tell you how I kept her behind me. "Let (me) strip off every weight that slows me down, especially the sin that so easily trips me up. Let me run with endurance the race God has set before me. I do this by keeping my eyes on Jesus, the Champion, who initiates and perfects my faith!" (My translation of Hebrews 12:1-2a As long as I focussed on what Jesus could do in and through my body, Balloon Lady would always be behind me. Mikey and Myron gave me a fabulous head start on her, but I held my own on my time staying in front of her. During the race, I did go back and wait on her...tell you that in a minute.
I started at the bottom of Highland Avenue. I experienced such a rush waiting for Myron. Looking for him, anticipating the had off. Then, there he was! Right in front of me! I saw Sydney, Gracen, and Asa standing with Randy. Randy was probably telling me not to start to fast. I mean, I was keeping up with these crazy marathoners, and this was still the fast bunch! Throghout my leg, if I got tired (2nd Avenue North - so boring!), I would tell myself, "Jenn's waiting!" "Get to Jenn." "Jenn has to run her race too!" It reminded me that as we are running our spiritual race, there are times where we don't see the point. If we get to that place, remember someone is waiting on you to do your part so they can do theirs. Then, watch. Don't miss your kids and your husband standing over there cheering for you!!!!! There they were, smiling, cheering, holding their cute little signs, reminding me that my job was to finish! Even when I was on 2nd Ave.N. that seemed so straight and long, with not much to look at on either side - just greyness. Right after 2nd Ave. came the excitement of people cheering, and big buildings, and pretty streets. Boring grey prepares us for the fireworks! Then, came my little hill. Yucko! I heard something right here that I hadn't heard before. "Come on, Baby, you can do it." It was totally my mom's voice in my head. Tears rolled a little bit, then pure joy that Jesus brought that out at that moment!
As I rounded behind the BJCC, I knew I was well into my 5th mile, and that I was on the downhill stretch - except that it was an uphill stretch. Then I remembered something else. My daddy was at my finish line. He was gonna be so proud! My pace picked up. I rounded my last corner, and I could tell where the relay station was, but I couldn't see which side to run to. I always kick it up at the end of a race, almost to an obnoxious fault. I was looking so hard for where to go, I was not hustling. Then I realized my feet were about to cross the timing station. I was still confused, then I heard, "Heeeeeyyyyy, Ashley!" My lips parted like the Red Sea, and my cheeks almost hurt I smiled so hard. I said out loud, "That's my Daddy!" as I kicked it into high gear! He was waving, my friends were cheering my name, and I was looking for Jennifer, but I could not find her. I said, "Where's Jenn?!" Then, my friend who is still witty in the midst of chaos, my friend who told me 2 1/2 years ago that my new journey would be fun, said my favorite words of the day. "I'm right in front of you, I look just like you, right here!"(We both had on lime green shirts, black legs, and lime green softball socks...don't know how I couldn't see what was right in front of me.:)
So, I was done. My race was finished. Jenn was gone, but my Daddy was there. You know, your Daddy waits at your finish line too. He has placed people in your life to cheer you on when you're on those boring old roads - are you looking up? He's got all kinds of people for you to meet, like blue hat, and hot pink pants who you might share a conversation with along the way, and receive or give a word of encouragement. Your race might be boring..Run it. Your race may be difficult. Run it. Your race may be uncertain. Run it! Enjoy it! Know that when you're done, your Abba Daddy will yell your name, and He will be so proud of you!
You might just get to be in the Cloud of Witnesses - the ones who have gone on before (Heb 1:1). I think that might feel like this... I waited on the corner that I had passed almost an hour earlier. I knew she was coming. Sure enough, there she was, coming up the hill. She wasn't a scary clown. She was a sweet faced, older lady with balloons. Then I saw him. Fit 2Phat. He was 6 paces in front of her.This was my day horror about to come true for this man dressed in black! "Gooooooooo!" I yelled! "You're almost there, don't let her pass you! Your team is waiting!" He looked at me like he didn't think he could do it. My heart sank. "Jesus." I prayed. "You can do it!" I yelled again. "How much further?" He asked. I smiled as I yelled, "Just over the hill, and then left to finish!" He scared me as he walked to the top of the hill, but then I saw him pick it up and jog, leaving only the Balloon Lady in my sight, and then she was gone. My kids and Randy were with me then, and we walked to the finish line to cheer on our teammates.
We don't know when our race will be done. It's just our job to run it with endurance. I don't know who in my family will cross the finish line first, but I think that as we cross, just like I was standing with my Daddy watching for the Balloon Lady, that our other family members will cross and come on over before we even realize we're there without them. The hard part is being in the race still, when you know ones you love have finished their race. Can I encourage you? Make them proud. Carry your team to victory, gain as many new teammates as you can, and have fun while you're doing it! Don't give up! They would never want you to throw in the towel, or to think that your part of the race is unimportant. You were created for such a time as this.
Friends, let this be our prayer in our spiritual run today. "I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us." Phillipians 3:14