20 years ago, when I was going through a painful time in my life, I decided to run my first marathon. I wasn’t really a runner, I just needed to prove to myself that I can conquer anything that I set my mind to. I was determined to look the 42.195 km course in the eye and beat it back.
I still remember the race. As I got to the last few km’s, I could feel my body running out of fuel. My lungs were burning. My legs were screaming for mercy. When I reached the last km, four and a half hours after the start, my legs were cramping so badly that I was barely shuffling along.
And then all of a sudden, I looked up, and there you were! You had been waiting for me at the last km marker. You saw I was in trouble, so you hopped the fence, got onto the course and ran along side of me for the last km!
Do you remember what you said? I do. ”Don’t say anything. Conserve your energy. I am here to see you through to the finish line.”
So you ran beside me for the last kilometer. Step by step. When I could run a little, you ran. When I needed to slow down to a shuffle. You shuffled. When I needed to walk, you walked right along side of me.
You never said a word. You just ran and walked with me.
Every single step.
When I finally made the last turn toward the final straightaway up to the finish line, you slapped me on my back, and said, “Go on up, run to the finish line. This is your moment.”
With that, you veered off the course into the spectators, and I ran up to cross the finish line to the cheer of the crowds. The race officials put the finisher’s medal around my neck. 42.195 kms. 4 hours and 40 minutes. My first marathon.
When I visited you in the hospital today, I was thinking about that moment. Hard to believe it was more than 20 years ago.
So much had happened in 20 years. Life took us down different paths. We each had our battles to fight. We won some. We lost some. And some, we discovered they were not worth fighting after all.
Today, we have reached the last stage of your marathon. Your life’s journey.
Like me 20 years ago, your body is battered and broken, but your spirit is strong. Like me 20 years ago, you are determined to finish this race with courage.
As I drove home today, I thought to myself, “It’s time to return this 20 year favor.”
Don’t have to say anything. Conserve your energy. I am here to see you through to the finish line.
Where the crowds will be cheering, and those who finished the race before you will welcome you and put your finishers medal around your neck.
This is your moment.
I am so honored to run these last miles with you.