October 5, 2006

What a Finish!

2006 1528 page6 caphe last time I wrote an editorial for this magazine I touched on some things I learned from my latest kick: running. I hate to do this to you again, but I’ve got a lot more to share from my latest escapades with the sport. So please bear with me.
I last shared that I was in the midst of training for my very first half marathon (13.1 miles). I am proud to say that race day came and went, and I have in my possession a medal that says I finished. I also have in my possession sore legs that say I finished, but I’ll leave that for another time.
Race day dawned bright and early in Virginia Beach (actually it was still dark when we headed for the start line, but the sun eventually peeped out as 20,000 of us stretched and warmed up for the big event). I thought there would be the loud sound of a gun going off to signal our start, but in actuality we were spurred through the start line by an air horn. But it was still pretty exciting.
The first couple of miles whizzed by. After wishing my buddy Kristen a good race so we could keep to our own paces, things progressed pretty smoothly. It was a rush to see so many people walking, running, juggling (yes, juggling), and just moving in a spirit of good health and friendly competition. I drank water and that yucky Amino Vital at every station I passed and found myself trucking along at a decent clip until mile 6.
2006 1528 page6Then the shade we enjoyed through part of the course gave way to brilliant, open sunshine, and it got very hot. My original strategy was to start out walking briskly for a ways before starting to run, to conserve my energy and allow me to finish out as strong as I could. But I admit the excitement of the morning and the adrenaline got the best of me, and I probably should have been more conservative. Because by mile 8, I started wondering why I was doing this.
I cranked up my iPod and tried hard to focus on enjoying the scenery and the people. Many ran with pictures and signs painted on their shirts (one woman had this message for her friend: “Jen, if you are reading this, I’m beating you!”). Then there was a man with a picture and message pinned to his shirt that brought tears to my eyes. It was a photo of his son, dressed as an action figure from Star Wars, and it said: “I’m running in memory of Christian. He was my Jedi. He was my son.”
I finally rounded the bend to mile 10, which put us on a straight shot down the boardwalk, parallel to the Atlantic Ocean, and on target for the finish line. And from there, three miles seemed to take an eternity. I drank more water and Amino Vital, scurried through every misting station (silently blessing those who provided them), and mentally gave myself pep talks. I sent many prayers heavenward and reminded myself that too many people knew that I was doing this race and if I quit, I would have to hang my head in shame to them. I kept on.
Finally, “Oh, thank You, Lord!” I thought. I caught sight of the 13-mile marker and the finish line one tenth of a mile ahead of it. My heart skipped a beat (though at that point, my heart was doing all kinds of things).
Never in my life has one physical landmark served such a profound purpose. For there ahead lay the end of it all. It was as if the finish line was a beacon. I locked my eyes on it, hunkered down, and booked it! When I crossed the line the relief that washed over me was intense, and the exhilaration of my accomplishment complete. And during the past week as I recovered, the experience made me think of something else.
What is it going to be like when one day (hopefully soon) we look into the sky and see the heavens splitting open with brilliant colors, millions of angels, sights untold, and at the center of it all, the Savior we’ve been hungering for? Talk about the finish line of all finish lines! I will see His face, and I will run to Him like I have never run before.
See you at that finish!
Wilona Karimabadi wrote this while filling in as an assistant editor during Kimberly Luste Maran’s maternity leave.