Maybe the medals that count aren't for winning but just for showing up and finishing.
This is the postscript for my pre-half-marathon post on A Click of Courage where I finally pressed the computer key and committed to a half-marathon in Auburn (hey, how often do you get to finish on the 50-yard line of Jordan-Hare and see yourself on the jumbotron?).
It's one thing to sign up for a race when you think you will be one of the anonymous thousands. It's another to get your race packet and discover your number is "40." I had signed up so late that all I could think, "Are there only 40 runners in the whole race? Great. All the volunteers will be waiting for me and the Balloon Lady to finish." Like the Cowardly Lion I would have turned and ran if my kids hadn't grabbed my arms and dragged me back.
So I showed up on a long-run perfect morning in the low 60's with low humidity (rare for Alabama even in April). Eased into the middle of the pack (relieved that it was a few hundred instead of just 40), put in my earbuds and made it to the finish line. I had lots of pondering time as I pounded the pavement. First, I was thankful to be out there after several injuries. I'm starting to not take any part of life for granted.
But mostly I reflected on real courage as I spent time praying for friends and family who are in real-life ultra marathons: battling cancer, losing a business, grieving the death of a spouse, surviving an ugly divorce, trying to reach prodigal kids, enduring in a heart-wrenching ministry serving abused children, dealing with depression, learning to live with a beloved son with a traumatic brain injury, aging with dignity.
They show up every day and run their race by faith that God is good in the midst of a life not planned nor wanted. They're vulnerable enough to confess that they are tired, scared, angry and needy, and if God doesn't show up, they're done. And they do it every day with no medals, ribbons or recognition. But in their long run, they're surrounded by the saints who've gone before them and Jesus at the finish line (Hebrew 12:1-2). They will get more than a tin medal, they will receive a crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). I wish I could give my medal for finishing to all my friends who are "hitting the wall" in the middle of their real-life marathons.
Where are you hitting the wall? Who are you cheering on as they faithfully run their not-planned-for races? Who would you give a medal to? Leave me a comment. We'll figure a way to send them a middle-of-the-race medal.