Man, my calves are reeeaaallly hurting.
I thought as I stood tippy-toed amidst the crowd cheering on the Chicago marathon racers this past weekend. Oh right. Kaylee, seriously? Your calves? You’re worried about YOUR calves right now? My thoughts finishing themselves out.
Marathons are so beautiful to me. There is a spirit in the air as the runners take off, a form of deep connected comradeship explodes. Each runner on their own, but each runner having respect and honor for the other – all understanding and honoring the hard work, the training that went into the preparation, and then for the strength and perseverance the next 26.2 miles will require.
And then, there's this. The crowd. I’m not sure which takes my breath-away-for-it’s beauty more, the runners… or the crowd. THE CROWD. First, you guys, THERE ARE COW BELLS!! People in the crowd have these cow bell thingies and they ring and ring and ring them. And I like that. I didn’t know there was such a thing as cow-bell-cheer-bells. And so next time, IMMA get me some cow bells for the shaking.
But what always takes my breath away is this: There is a deep ache and longing of each crowd member, for these runners to finish, to see them do their best. Every crowd participant lines the streets like a barrier, a protective line of soldiers in their own right. And they YELL!!! Things like: You Can Do It! And You Got This! And Come On! And Great Job!
You know what else? You see members of the crowd running from spot to spot throughout the race to locate their runner, their person. They will go to extreme lengths and creativity – using maps, taking taxis, using the bike system, running their own mileage – just to get to the next spot to cheer their participant.
And it’s beautiful and it's amazing.
Oh and also, there are people who have no connection, no runner in the race… and yet somehow THEY DO. They show up to that line, lining the streets, and they find their spot. And they belong. They are a part of the crowd. And they somehow get it. And they cheer. And without them the race wouldn’t have been the same.
You guys, my little Bella… she is a real good cheerer. She counted down the sleep nights until her Uncle John’s race. She made a poster for him, it read: Go, John, Go! Dear John, I hope you win the game! This poster had rainbows, butterflies, flowers and sunshines and every ounce of positivity this little girl could bestow on her Uncle.
She went out to a fancy dinner the night before the race with Uncle John and his running team who had all flown into Chicago for the race.
She got up the morning of the race, excited as ever, for Uncle John’s race! She walked and ran a good five miles during the race to keep up and see him THREE times. And she cheered. Gawd, you guys, she cheered. For Uncle John. And for ALL the runners.
Atop my sister and I’s shoulders (we had to take turns because well, 40 pounds on your shoulders, I mean right?).
GO, JOHN, GO!
Go John’s Friends. (the ones she met, we saw them running too!)
GO, RUNNERS, GO!
COME ON! Keep up with all the others ones, guys!
She’d yell and yell and yell!
EVEN IF JOHN DOESN'T WIN THE GAME, I'M STILL GONNA GIVE HIM HIS CARD! (she proclaimed and advised of the poster she held overhead.)
After the race, Uncle John gave her his medal. He gave her a medal for being such a good cheer-er-er. And Monday morning (the day after the race) she walked out of her room with it around her neck…. And then she wore it… ALL DAY.
This morning (Tuesday) she walked outta the house with it around her neck again. Day Number Two, guys, DAY NUMBER TWO. That medal is hers for the taking. In her books, she was a part of the race just as much as every running runner.
Now runners, please do forgive me. You busted ass out there. I get it.
But right now, something about the crowd has my heart.
Because I’m running a marathon too, right now. My life has brought me to a season that is slow and painful and also, painfully slow.
I have moments where I am living breath to breath.
I have days where my body has hit a wall, and I’m not sure I can do it anymore. Like I literally don’t know how to put one step in front of the other.
And you know what?
There is a crowd. Cheering.
And it’s family and friends who run and use maps to find me, to find me wherever I may be. They seek me out. They HUNT me down. And when I hit my walls, when I am walking, when I think about bailing out of the race altogether they DO NOT LET ME QUIT.
There are people who I would have never imagined, the random crowd folks, who I didn’t even know knew me but now, somehow as they witness my run, they do know me. AND THEY ARE CHEERING ME ON, TOO! And I am humbled, honored and often brought to tears by it.
And I wouldn’t make it without my people, without my crowd.
And I wonder. Maybe this is it.
Maybe this is life.
Maybe we’ll get to heaven and everyone will be taking their medals off from around their necks and placing them over the heads of their beloved crowd. It’ll be a sort of an anointing, a sacred exchange.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is: Not that I have obtained all of it or been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of me.
For years I’ve understood the first part. I’m not perfect. I’m in process. But the part of “for that which Jesus took hold of me” never really made a lot of sense. But I wonder if it’s about belonging. What it’s about sharing our medals together. What if it is us understanding that we belong and that we are all so--SOO intricately connected…and THAT IS LOVE. The running. The cheering. The giving, the taking. The giving, the receiving.
May I run this race, absolutely!
May I run it well.
But may I never-ever-NEVER forget to be the crowd. May I creatively seek out cheering. May I run, use maps, bikes, any and all forms of public transit. May I go to the ends of the earth... if but just to say: Go, You, Go!