3,247th Place

A quiet confidence emanated from this group at the back of the marathon.  The runners had not conceded to their slowness, they had not given into their lack of speed.  On the contrary, they had all conquered whatever might have kept them from participating.
— The Courage to Start, John Bingham

While on a mission trip to Hungary, I drank some bad water. Undiagnosed E-coli had mutated and hid itself in my body for seven years, taking me down until I was bed-ridden at the age of 27. I searched all over the United States for answers. 

A miracle occurred. I finally found a doctor who provided a correct diagnosis. He knew how to help me fight off the nasty parasite, and how to rebuild me back to not just functioning, but thriving. 

My recovery took three full years.

Maybe the parasite left me insane, but I celebrated living again after a decade of struggle … by running a marathon. It was the best way I knew to yell at the top of my lungs, “I’M ALIVE” to the rest of the world who told me I would be bedridden and propped up on pain killers the rest of my life.

Let me be clear. I’m not a runner. I was an athlete … but not a runner. But I didn’t care. I began a very slow build-up to 26.2 miles. It started with a laborious walk to the mailbox.

At the time of training, I was in my late 20s. Do you know what most people training for a marathon at that age look like?

Nothing like me.

They were lithe, agile, fast, and confident. The epitome of a Nike commercial. Looking to finish their race in under three-and-a-half-hours.

I ran awkward. Slower than Christmas. My form was ugly. I prayed I would finish the marathon under the seven hour cut-off time. But … I was alive. Breathing. Moving toward a goal that seemed impossible in the years preceding my training.

In The Courage to Start, John Bingham celebrates runners who are out of breath and sporting tattered clothes … all while encouraging us to be exactly where we are as we complete our daily training. Because he knew something I didn't know how to put into words.

Everyone at the back of the line has a story.

Beautiful runners with stories about overcoming the obstacles of life stand proudly at the back of the line.  Abuse survivors, cancer fighters, fundraising warriors, grief gladiators, weight-loss champions … people from all walks of life celebrating the journeys that could have taken them down. But didn’t.

I know you have a story.

You carry dreams. Goals. Desires of your heart.

  • Are you unable to start something because you’re frozen in perfectionism?
  • Maybe you already began the work, it didn’t turn out like you thought it would, and you’re paralyzed by your own expectations?
  • Are you scared that growing will hurt?
  • Worried that changing will be uncomfortable?

Push through, friends. Please. So many gifts are revealed in the process of learning. Even if the process is ugly, awkward, and doesn’t look like everyone else’s.

At mile 25 of the marathon, I was a mess. A generous friend had joined me to keep me going. Nauseated, shaky, and redefining the word exhaustion, the remaining 1.2 miles seemed an impossible feat. I came to an intersection where a police officer directed traffic. Bless his heart, he stopped oncoming cars, just for one lone competitor and her companion to cross the street. 

“Am I winning?” I huffed my attempt at humor as I half-walked, half-jogged past him.

“Yes, ma’am.” With a serious face, he nodded his head. “You are.”

He honored my journey, my place in that race. And that sentiment stays with me to this day.

You are winning. Right now. No matter how far back in line you stand.

Camaraderie awaits you. With me. With others. Where there’s freedom to let the journey be the imperfectly perfect, beautiful gift that it is.

You have a story to tell. Someone else desperately needs to hear about the journey that God walked you through.

Push through, friends. Go to your first book club. Sign up for that college class you keep thinking about. Use your out-loud voice to share for the first time in a small group. Purchase the paint brushes that call to you. Put on your old ratty shoes, and take twenty minutes to walk around the block.

It’s okay to finish in 3,247th Place.

With me. At the back of the glorious line.

 

How are you today? I’d love to hear about how I can cheer you on in your race.