I am a runner.
I use the term “runner” loosely. Maybe a jogger? A really fast walker? No, I choose to be called a runner. I may look like a turtle trudging through peanut butter, but in my heart, I’m a runner. I’m not good at it, I don’t look good doing it, but I love it. It’s taught me so many things about myself over the past year I’ve been doing it.
One thing I’ve learned is that I prefer to run with others. Whether it’s the distraction of conversation, the encouragement passing between my partner and I, or the need to go just a few more steps so as not to look like a wimp, I always do better with another runner at my side.
Earlier this year, I joined the Run for God group at my church. One meeting of Bible study and two training meetings per week. Some of us were novices, while some were marathoners. But we were all in it together. We were a community of runners. We prayed for each other, we encouraged each other, we pulled each other along (sometimes literally).
Our 9-week program culminated in a race in downtown Columbia. Our walkers and newer runners would do the 5k, while the more experienced would run the 10k.
I cannot explain the feeling of the moments just before the gun goes off. The excitement buzzes through the crowd of runners. The first-time racers (like me) are trying to shake out the jitters, getting a few extra stretches in. Then suddenly, we’re off, one giant mass of spandex and neon colored running shoes. Then the crowd breaks apart, the faster ones headed into the distances, the walkers stay to the right, and then there’s the people like me, huffing and puffing and trying not to look like I’m dying.
After what seems like forever, the finish line is in sight and the sound of cheering gives you that last nudge you need to get you through. If you’re as fortunate as I am, you run straight into the arms of family and fellow runners who have watched you and cheered for you on the entire journey.
It was at this particular race that I felt the meaning of the runners community.
Long after many of us had crossed the finish line, a rumor started circulating through the crowd that there was one more on the course. A 10k’er. And then us Run for God people recognized the name–he was one of ours. It took a while for him to come into view. The Run for God director was jogging alongside him as he huffed and puffed and pushed. He was a stocky man, drowning in sweat, panting, obviously using every last ounce of strength he had just to finish. We began to cheer him on, clapping, whistling and yelling. He struggled to doff his baseball cap in thanks. The entire crowd started hollering, as if trying to will him across the finish line with their own strength. And suddenly, those of us who had already run our race, who had already experienced the finish line, ran back into the street. We fell in behind him, jogging at his back, careful to stay behind and give him his moment, but moving together. My friends and I clapped and yelled as we surged forward, and we all crossed the finish line as one.
That feeling of coming together in support of this one runner, watching his determination to cross the finish line–that’s why I run. I am a runner, and this is my community.
This guest post was written by Keri, who resides with her family in South Carolina. In a nutshell, she's a wife, mother, business owner, runner, jewelry maker, musician--and redeemed.