Yesterday morning I ran passed the Athletes House running store in Nashville. I actually stopped at this store before checking in at the hotel two weeks ago. I needed some long socks to wear under my ankle brace and found myself in the oldest running store in Nashville. Without trying, yesterday I found myself in the same place. On the outside of the store was a bulletin board advertising local races. The Achilles 5 miler got my attention, since it was a unique distance and because I have had Achilles issues.
Over the last several years my running journey has been detoured by injuries. Turning ankles and falling off a bicycle have limited me. However, the Achilles 5 miler reminded me that there are people who have overcome much more than I. This run benefited and included the participation of children and adults with varying levels of ability. At the start line, groups of blind people walked arm-in-arm with sighted guides. Wheelchairs and pushchairs climbed the hills on the five mile course. Amazing athletes ran, walked, struggled, and overcame together.
However, the benefit of the race was not only in the accomplishment of the task and raising money for differently abled persons. Every participant was invited to select the card of a child to run and pray for. I ran for “Team Jonathan” a nine year old boy who is blind—the same age as Nathan. Also, in addition to a traditional race bib number, we were also given a bib with the word “HOPE” on it and asked to write what we hoped for. I wrote the words “imago Dei”—in my hope that all people would learn to see each other as equally created in God’s image. In Renaissance art God is portrayed as masculine and strong, but I wonder how we see the image of God reflected in the person without sight or limbs?
For me, today was a special gift. Not only did I have the chance to meet some amazing people, but I ran a race much greater than I expected. Six weeks ago I turned my foot underneath me in the first run after the 5K. I didn’t run for almost a month and then came back with a brace. Today, I would have been happy to average 12 minute miles as my ankle is still not 100 percent. However, despite running almost 50 miles in the last two weeks, my body still gave me more than I expected. I ran the second mile in under nine minutes. While my ankle let it be known that I needed to back off from the pace some, I still finished five miles in 47:05–much more than I hoped for. I crossed the finish line with the joy of Flavor Flav singing “31 Flavors” in my ears, watching the embrace of people who overcame great obstacles, and being a part of a community of people who made the journey together.