Sometime in the first week of January 2009, I signed up for my first half marathon, to be run in April and for my first marathon, to be run the next January. On that day, I had never run straight through more than 4 miles at one time and had participated in exactly one organized race. A 5K. In over my head? A little, but in this case, ignorance was bliss. I had no idea what I was really in store for.
Over the months I trained my butt off, finally got real running shoes, and asked more questions than a toddler from everyone whom I could possibly glean a sliver of insight - even the dentist. In the world that existed then, there were no paces to calculate, no splits to aim for, not even a PR to beat. I had no idea when I would finish the race or how I was going to make it 13.1 miles without music. All I knew how to do was run and pray that I didn’t die.
Then it came, the April morning I had worked so hard for. And it was raining. And I was petrified. Thankfully, between the enthusiasm radiating between my mom and my aunt, I mustered up the courage to line up in my coral. As I stood there, protected from the rain by my motley garbage-bag-poncho, I surveyed the crowd and tried desperately to figure out what last minute preparations I was supposed to be making while I stood in line. My mom has always told me that God would take care of me and even though this was the furthest thought from my mind, I had the luck of making eye contact with another lone runner. We struck up what turned out to be a 13.1 mile conversation.
On that day, a stranger became a beloved and together we pushed each other to triumph. Without her help, I would not have been able to run the whole race and with my help, she was able to beat her time goal. I’ve often considered her an angel who showed up when I needed the support the most, even though I didn’t really think I needed it.
Today, on a glorious Easter morning, almost exactly three years to the day since that race, I ran with my Anonymous Beloved again. It is only the second time in our lives that we have run together, or even spoken face to face, in our lives and yet it all just fell so naturally into place. And again, we pushed each other passed our road blocks.
One of my favorite images of God comes from the “Footprints in the Sand” poem, when God tells the speaker that the places that only show one set of footprints are from when God was carrying him. Maybe old friends, new friends, and strangers who become friends are the arms of God. We weren’t meant to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders alone, sometimes we just need to be reminded.