Yesterday I had the opportunity to cheer on my dear friend and roommate in the Chicago Marathon! 26.2 miles. Despite my initial perspective that this is pure ridiculousness and torture... there was something completely inspiring and exhilarating about the whole ordeal.
I'm told that 45,000 people signed themselves up for this madness. I joined the 1.5 million spectators that lined the course. I knew I was approaching the right street from quite a distance. All you could hear were the roars of cheering fans. There was never a lull in the enthusiasm. Young, old, athletes, parents, friends, coworkers, children, you name it... everyone was there to throw in their encouragement and support.
Signs and balloons brought a rainbow of color and glitter to the already cluttered streets. Words like, "You can do it!" or "Run, mommy, run!" appeared everywhere along the 26.2 mile route. Whether you were running or not, seeing the words on these signs gave you an extra dose of push and passion.
When a family or support group spotted their runner amidst the masses there was no stopping the flood of cheering, shouting, waving and clapping. Their purpose was escalated and it was their job to bring renewed energy and vigor. They did all they could to show love, support and encouragement. And often, it seemed that these particular runners could feel it. When finally they would spot a familiar face and hear the applause and cheer from their people, it seemed to me their step was momentarily lightened. They were able to push on a little stronger, a little faster.
Some runners sported clothing with their names written on it. At first I wondered the purpose of this, but it didn't take long to understand the brilliance. Though most runners were only known by a few people within the 1.5 million... their name could be known by all. Hearing your name shouted and cheered on is sometimes all you need. "Come on, Kate! Keep going, Kate! You can do it!" And in that moment, she believed she could.
Now, I'm not a runner, but I witnessed something beautiful yesterday that I believe in completely. I believe in the necessity to encourage each other in this race we call life. I know the "life is a race" analogy is overdone already, but it works so well. Here we are, making our way down the streets, through the crowds. Sometimes feeling alone. Sometimes feeling exhausted. Don't we need to see a sign that reminds us that we, in fact, can do it? Don't we need to see a crowd of familiar faces shouting and cheering and loving us? Don't we need someone to call out our name?
I need that. Don't you?
Life is hard sometimes. But I promise you, it is harder lived alone. We are called to live in community with each other. To live crowded along the streets together. To hold signs and shout and encourage.
It was beyond exhilarating to be a part of the group of spectators. Showed me the wealth of people who had the same goal. To encourage those they knew, and those they will never know on to the finish. Finish strong! You CAN do it!
So, just as it is natural to spend a cold, October Sunday morning along the streets in the windy city. It should be natural to recognize the marathons going on all around us. Is your sister rounding the corner of mile 12 wondering how she will ever make it? Is your neighbor in pain and in need of a little extra cheer? Is the checker at the grocery store trying to make his way up the hill at mile 25? Are you going to stand there silently? No! Get out your signs! Clap your hands! Shout their names!
Be an active participant in the marathons of others... and you just may find that they will be there for yours. "Almost there! Finish strong!"