In preparation for the Chicago Marathon, our little team of charity runners faced our first 15-miler yesterday. I started early. Before sunup. I figured 15 miles would take me a good 3 hours. Three of us started together, but as is the custom, by mile 3 our paces have stretched out, and I’m alone with Ira Glass in my ear.
I started losing it around mile 9. It was going on 8 AM, the ginormous sun racing upwards momentarily distracted me while I wondered if I had put on sunscreen and if that grain in my teeth was a trapped gnat. But it was at mile 10 when I believed God had appeared in the form of a golfer.
I was heading back home (“Every step is a step home! I chanted). And oh, was I starting to fade. My chest was heaving, my legs were like concrete. Then I glanced up at the golf course fronting that section of the lakefront path and saw a middle aged golfer giving me a ‘thoughtful, probing’ look. It was the “Keep going” look. The “I’m with you. You can do it!” look.
Had God directed someone to encourage me right then? Right when I thought I couldn’t go further? My husband howled with laughter when I told him this. Well, he laughed after that concerned, anxious, ‘oh my god’ look left his face.
Then, at mile 12, just when I was in most need of water, taking a different route than I normally take, suddenly a water fountain appeared. Almost hidden in the mondara plants, a spigot of hope I had never seen before.
I made it home. Running 14.5 of the required 15, and limping the last hundred yards, I made it home.
I don’t know. I’m sure these are random moments. (I’m not going to even bother telling you about the last ‘visitation’ at mile 13. Let’s just leave that for another time). But I will say, this running thing is about more than the physical. It’s a head game. A mental challenge. And ultimately, a test of dogged hope.
More on that later. Today is our day of rest.