Well Run, My Good and Faithful Servant
What a personal best looks like
Last year during the marathon, Anne’s knee flared up to the point where she didn’t think she could continue running. I couldn’t bear to see my friend drop out of the race after having trained so hard for six months. For about the last six miles of the course, I kept telling her, “We’re going to finish this race, and we’ll do it one step at a time as slow or as fast as your body can manage. But we will finish, and we’re going to do it together. I’m not crossing the finish line without you.”
The last mile was especially painful for Anne. I reminded her why we were running—for the women who spend hours each day hauling buckets to and from river beds looking for water for their families.
“These women don’t get to cross a finish line, Anne. They have to keep going. Let’s keep going for them!” Having this visual in our heads, she and I crossed the finish line together. Slowing down for Anne didn’t help me break any records, but it felt far better to share the marathon finish with her instead of ahead of her and alone.
At this year’s Chicago Marathon, I wanted to give up at about mile 16. My brain got caught in a terrible loop of negativity fueled in part by my overheating body and my aching hips and feet. I hit a massive wall that left me feeling delirious with discouragement. I told Anne I needed to pull over and stretch. And then I broke down.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to do 10 more miles,” I told her. “You should go on and run at your own pace, because I’m going to ruin your race if you stay with me.”
I desperately wanted Anne to leave me and run on ahead. I wanted to die my own death, and I wanted to do it alone. Instead, Anne said, “I’m not leaving you. We’re going to finish this race, and we’re doing it together.”
At that moment I didn’t know whether to love or hate her.
Kindly but with firmness, Anne said, “We’ll walk a little bit, and then we’re going to run again. Remember, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. We’re going to finish this marathon.”
Painfully, I put one foot in front of the other and started moving again. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I focused on any bright spot on the horizon, a neon shirt, anything ahead, and repeated the verse over and over. I wore it out for the next 10 miles.
Several times I had to pull over to stretch, and I pleaded with Anne to go on without me. She just looked at me and smiled and said, “I’m not leaving you. I owe you.”
Anne probably would have finished this year’s race at least 30 minutes faster if she had just run on without me. Going into this marathon, she and I had hoped and prayed we’d better our time from last year. The day after this year’s marathon, Anne told me, “All season I had been wondering whether I would run well this year. While we were running, though, I knew that I would rather finish with you than go on ahead for a better time.” She said that sticking by me made it a well-run race, regardless of the clock.
It’s a humbling thing to have someone sacrifice their own success for you. Proverbs 18:24 paraphrased says, “A real friend sticks closer than a [sister].” Anne is a real friend. She stuck with me till the end. If God is keeping the record books from this year’s Chicago Marathon, no doubt he’d pronounce her finish a personal best.
Marian V. Liautaud is managing editor for GiftedforLeadership.com.