fifty-one minutes {day 27}

27 Oct

I ran my first 5K two months ago. “What was your time?” was everyone’s first question.

“Slow,” I said, smiling. I didn’t tell them how long. “But I finished.”

I finished. I watched the Olympics a few months later, as muscled women in uniforms ran. It took them half the time to run the 10K as it took me to run my 5.

I’m thin, but I’m slow. After eight weeks of Couch to 5K, my sides still ached as I jogged. I tried to ration my water, breathe right. But I still panted. I stopped too often, bent over, put my hands on my knees, and breathed heavy. I felt like I might throw up.

And I finished.

I nearly cried every time this commercial played during the Olympics. “I run like him,” I told my mother-in-law. It felt like a holy thing to watch this boy, Nathan, run. I wished he was running beside me.

{If you’re reading via email or in a reader, click over to view the video.}

There is a lot of praise for finishing well. There are medals for the first and second and third. But where is the praise for finishing?

We moved out of our apartment in Durham early this past summer. Six weeks before we meant to quit our jobs and drive to San Diego. Depression is hell, and after four years of processing people’s add-drop forms and answering the phones, my scholar husband decided that it was enough. We’d visit his mom in Kentucky and mine in West Virginia. We’d go with family to the beach.

The sun was already setting as I drove the U-Haul out of Durham, eight hours too late and six weeks too early.  We had stayed up until 2:00 in the morning and woken up at 7:00 to do the rest of the packing we hadn’t planned on. By noon, we were throwing things away by the dumpster: brooms, dustpans, binders full of graduate school notes, picture frames we didn’t have room for. At two in the afternoon, I was crying at an Arby’s.

“This isn’t the way it was supposed to go,” I said to Josh until I was cried out. I dipped my curly fries into ketchup, ate my roast beef, and then I went home to finish cleaning and packing up the truck.

I left for my mom’s five hours after Josh had left with the car. The sun set in front of me as I drove west. It blazed red and orange like a pillar of fire. I turned up the country music loud and sang along as I passed the Virginia state line.

I do not finish “well.” But I finish.

In the last quarter-mile of my 5K, I run uphill. It is hot, close to 11am in June. I passed the woods a mile back, and now the sun is overhead with nothing to shade me. It is straight uphill concrete to the finish. I take a cup of water from a volunteer and drink it. “You’re almost there!” she shouts to me, beaming. I run.

I am passed by a middle-aged dad who jogs with his daughter on his shoulders. I am passed by a woman with a brace on her knee. I am passed by any number of seven-year-olds. I run.

People sit on their front porches and in lawn chairs on their lawns. They cheer, like they are watching Real Athletes, not the back half of a 5K. “Good job!” shout a couple college students walking their dogs. “Come on, you’re so close!”

I run. And finally, it is downhill, and I see the mall parking lot and the finish line. I let my legs carry me fast, and I don’t worry about breathing right or side cramps or if I’ll throw up at the end. I see a hundred people standing there watching, a great cloud of witnesses. I run.

They call my number, and people cheer as I cross the line. “Fifty-one oh four,” the announcer says. The line of runners and volunteers give me high-fives as I pass.

I do not finish well, but I finish. I finish slow, and I cheer for the people beside me and behind me. I shout with joy for myself. I have not stopped shouting.

This is the victory cheer for fifty-one minutes.

I shout it for the preachers who faithfully preach a sermon every week that the people in the pews ignore while they update Facebook.

For the mamas who let their kids play video games for hours every week because they’re just too frazzled to make them do anything else.

For the dads who serve up frozen pizza or Hamburger Helper or blue-box macaroni and cheese because they’re tired, and kids must eat.

For the people who don’t love their jobs. For the people who are not Employee of the Year, Month, Day. For the people who keep going because there are bills, groceries, rent.

For the students that study hard and just pass.

For the friends that say the wrong thing more times than they’d like but say “I’m sorry” and try again. One more time.

For the couples who fight and drive each other crazy but somehow keep reaching for each other as the day ends.

This is the victory cheer for fifty-one minutes.

There are no medals. There is no flag to wrap around yourself, only grace. There is no room to criticize, only to smile, wave, shout. And the only anthem they play is the anthem of the last become first.

This post is part of a series, 31 Days of Healing. Check out Day 1 or the complete list of posts. If you want to follow along, you can also subscribe by email or subscribe in a feed reader. Or “like” the blog on Facebook. (We’re all about options here.) And thanks for reading!


5 Responses to “fifty-one minutes {day 27}”

  1. Paul Wright October 28, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Tonight, your words were what I needed to hear.

    • Christina October 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      Paul, I’m so glad. Thanks for the encouragement. Hope everything is well across the pond.

  2. Catherine McKinlay October 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    I’ve heard it said by our minister “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” I like that. Sometimes it’s what I need to hear. The fear of not doing something “well” can lend to unending paralysis otherwise!

  3. Catherine McKinlay October 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    (see, it was worth posting, and I posted it badly)

  4. Chris Thomas May 27, 2013 at 4:52 am #

    This is awesome, very moving. Most of my life has been spent at the other end of that spectrum, where I was the one contending for one of the top spots. By His mercy and grace, I have been brought to a place where His strength is all and I can gladly boast in my weakness.

    May each of us enjoy the all sufficient love and grace of Jesus, moment to moment.

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