Some of you may or may not know that I have recently completed my first marathon.
On that sunny yet windy day, I realised that running a marathon is like our journey in life. We need to prepare, train, and get on with it.
So, this is my marathon journey....
The day, the day arrives! anticipation, camaraderie and nervousness run rife.
Even though many are here, each person is embarking on their own journey. They have their own targets and challenges ahead of them. We all know what we have signed up for, but we will each run this differently.
A marathon, I have learnt, is not a race.
It is a challenge, and each of us have our goals. We are not competing against each other, we are each trying to get the best out of ourselves. We are running alongside one another, all on the same journey of life but it is different for each of us. We find ourselves next to others, but it's not a competition. Other people cannot run the same race you have to run. Our lives are like that, we have our own journeys, our own challenges and our own marathon to run.
As we set off, those running a shorter distance soon outstrip me, and I must remember not to zoom off too quick as I have to conserve my energy, I am going to be running a long time.
I am running a different race, my life journey is not the same as everyone else's.
After a couple of miles I am running alongside a good friend. Their company keeps me going, we encourage others and each other along, impressed by our progress, and the natural beauty around us. We feel ready, we can do this, this is achievable. I realise that this is worth it because of the stunning scenery and the friendship, what beauty we live amongst.
After 5 miles we get a nice surprise from a little cheer squad cheering us on. We all need that in life, people who support us and cheer us on, what a great boost that gives. After that we see a variety of others along the way spurring us on. People that care and put themselves out to give you a boost are amazing people who enhance our lives.
After about halfway I find I am running on my own. My companion is struggling, we realise we have a different goal to achieve, it's sad to part, but we support each other in what we need to achieve, and we know we will see each other at the end. Sometimes this happens in life, we don't necessarily fall out with people, but our lives take different directions. It can be hard making a change like that.
The next section is tough; it's bland, boring and burdensome. The view has changed and it all appears the same, the concrete is the same, monotony.
It takes mental and physical strength to put one foot in front of the other. Life can be like that too. It can feel like things are just plain hard-work. It's hard enough to get out of bed let alone have to struggle with what the day throws at you. Yet, somehow, we keep on going. There is something that motivates us.
I remember the beauty of the first section; the natural beauty that surrounded me, and the companionship of those who are running, supporting and waiting for me. I suddenly appreciate that I am not doing this just for me. There are so many people invested in my life that it is about more than me. I may have to muddle through this part alone, but I see that there are many who will share the success with me when I get to the end. There are people who have invested in my life. Those who have trained with me, walked (or run) beside me, those who have released me and given up time to be there for me, those who look out for me and are waiting for me. If I have no other reason to keep going, this is enough.
I trudge along, and am waiting and hoping to see signs that I must be nearly there. I have energy to keep going and I am determined to complete, it's just a bit boring! I am reminded of some phrases my friends have encouraged me as I plod along, "I can do all things thorough Christ who strengthens me" and "we are winning" (purely because we get out of bed, we are winning!). They make me smile and I accept the truth of these things and keep focussed.
It seems to take such a long time to get to the 20mile mark, after that i'm in new territory. I have not come this far before. This is new. This is different. What will happen now?
I have set foot in unknown territory, I have planned to do it and prepared for it and i'm going for it! I am eagerly looking out for each marker which signals that I am closer to the end, the fantastic finish funnel, Aahh the dream of crossing that line! I know i'm nearly there and i'm looking forward to it.
It would be kind of nice to slow down a bit though, just to have a little walk, a bit of a break. As I think this, a cheery friend pops along and happily surprises me by running alongside me. They tell me I'm doing well, and they are sticking around for over a mile. Just when I wanted to have a little breather! Just a little rest, but I have to keep going, they are now coming along with me to get to the 'only a parkrun to go' stage. I can't admit that I wanted to walk, just for a little while. I have to keep going, they have no idea the help they are to me. I am out of breath, sweaty and tired, yet they keep their smile and encouraging words coming as they run with me. What wonderful people are these. They somehow discern when we are struggling in life and come along just when we need them. They may never know the precious support they give in these moments.
I am re-motivated, re-invigorated, re-invisioned. I figure out that I can probably get to the end in my goal time, so I keep lifting those feet. It's tough going, but I am going! I miss the last three mile markers and get a bit confused about how far is left, I am praying it's not too long! Seems like a mist of confusion, excitement and tiredness. I guess we all feel like that at times, a whole array of emotions, keeping on going in the fogginess of our minds because we don't want to stand still, I've come too far now to stop!
Oh yes, I spot (well, actually hear first) the last band of supporters, shouting their cheerful encouragements, some even run with me almost to the end, I have almost made it.
The finish line looms, it is my finish line, no-one else can cross it with me.
It's my journey, my challenge, my race, my finish.
Yet, a whole host of people crossed that line with me.
Thank you to each of them.