A long time ago in a galaxy far away I ran. I ran the mile, the two-mile, and cross-country. I knew the thrill of victory. I knew the agony of defeat. But one thing I didn’t “know” very often was the roar of a crowd (when you run distance in High School or Junior College no one really cares). I never ran a marathon … not even a half-marathon … but I can appreciate the accomplishment of those who do. And I have always enjoyed watching the coverage of the Olympic Marathon. My favorite moment is when they come into the stadium to the roar of the crowd … even when the leader is not from the home country. Everyone seems to understand the accomplishment. I enjoyed the moment again this evening watching the Women’s Marthon from Beijing when Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania came through the tunnel to the cheers of the crowd. You could almost see her draw strength and energy from the crowd. It always surprises me that I have a bit of a “Hallmark moment” right then … just a bit emotional.
When it comes to the marathon I’m pretty sure that any contestant that makes it to the end is energized by the crowd … especially a crowd that knows the difficulty of that race and cheers everyone on … in this race there may be a gold medal, but everyone who finishes should be proud.
It doesn’t take a lot of original thought to make the jump to the running metaphors used by the biblical authors – especially in Hebrews 12.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)
I want to run the race with endurance. I can do it because of Jesus and in him I will find the strength and example to run well … to finish. But I like that he includes the idea of witnesses in the picture. Men and women who have already run the race, finished the race, and (metaphorically) cheer us on in the race even as we fix on Jesus. I think we humanly find strength in the encouragement … even if it is a word picture.
It sure reminds me to encourage others in the race. To cheer them on when I can. And remind us all that the crowd will be cheering when we finish. I think Jesus cheers too.
Extra running story: you’ve probably seen the ad/story about during the Olympic coverage about Derek Redmond’s race in the 1992 games. Thanks to Brian Walker at TheStreet.com for the synopsis:
British sprinter Derek Redmond returned to the Barcelona Games in 1992 after having to withdraw in 1988 due to injury. He entered as one of Britain’s favorites to win a medal, and easily won the first round and quarter-finals. But in the semifinals, his hamstring snapped and Redmond went sprawling to the track. It was what he did afterward, though, that cemented him in Olympics lore.
Redmond got up and began hobbling toward the finish line. Unable to continue very far, he again fell. A moment later, his dad appeared at his side, at first to talk him out of trying to continue. But when Redmond still tried to get up and keep running, his dad put his arm around him and helped his son around the track. The race was long over, and officially he got a disqualification, but the crowd gave Redmond and his father a standing ovation as he completed the remaining distance of the race.
No medal … but a finisher … a champion cheered by the crowd! You can see the story here.