Years ago, a friend and I completed the Snickers Marathon in Albany. No, I’m not kidding about the name. What do you think attracted me in the first place? I’ll do a lot for chocolate! (Actually, Snickers makes a tasty energy bar called Marathon, hence the sponsorship).
While our time would be embarrassing to real runners, it was a big deal to me to complete a marathon. I had been promising myself for 30 years that I was going to do this, so, it was a thrill to finish.
But, it was hard! Over 400 runners started the race. Not all finished. 26.2 miles is a long way. Knees got sore. Energy ran out. People gave up.
Unfortunately, that happens to Christians, too. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1 tells us. We need to hear that because it takes perseverance – because sometimes the course is hard and long and lonely and it is so tempting to quit.
Something that helped immeasurably in the marathon was the presence of cheerleaders. Many were race volunteers posted at hydration stations who gave much more than Gatorade. They cheered. They clapped. They lied, “You’re looking good!” and “You’re doing great!” And it helped. A lot.
Others stood at intersections. They didn’t just point us in the right direction. They applauded and shouted encouragement. One young lady put some theatrical dance moves into her pointing as she screamed and cheered – just for the two of us. She helped us. More than she knows.
Residents along the route put up signs or wrote on the road with chalk. One baked cookies to offer these nutty strangers running past her house. Some sat in folding chairs on their lawns and, knowing that the winners had long since finished the course, that we were slow, stumbling amateurs just struggling to finish, they clapped for us as if we were Olympic champions. I was touched. Still am. People wanted me to make it.
My family cheered, too. My brother took a day off work to sit for several hours just to yell a few seconds of encouragement as we cleared the 20 mile mark. My son came from Montgomery. My mom took pictures. My sister-in-law and her mother cheered. My wife gave me a hug during the race. And, wow did that help!
Marathons need cheerleaders. Life does too. Cheer some struggling runner on today. It will help.