By Ruth Kuder, High School Principal
This year’s worship theme, “Run the Race,” is taken from Hebrews 12:1-3:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
My daughter Rachel is registered to run in the New York City Marathon. As part of her training, she recently ran in the Newport Liberty Half-Marathon. As I continue to learn and reflect on running the race, I was struck by three things today: the course, the witnesses, and the runners. I thought I would share some of the images from this first race.
The course: maps, miles and markers
. . . the race marked out for us. . .
Rachel texted us a map so we could pick the most strategic place to cheer her on. We opted for Liberty State Park. Parking was good; the view of the Manhattan skyline was spectacular; and we could see her at multiple points. Did you see the “course subject to change” note in the bottom left corner?
The mile and times were clearly labeled throughout the race. As runners went by, I could hear them commenting back and forth about the number of miles they had left to run.
Someone, in advance of the race, painstakingly laid out orange cones, over 13.1 miles. Liberty State Park is a maze of pathways and roads. As we waited for the runners, someone suggested moving just a few of the cones at this particular intersection. How would that have changed the race?
The witnesses: guardians, nourishers, and encouragers
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . .
Throughout the race, there were guardians. There were police officers on patrol, on foot, in cars, on bikes and in K-9 units. And of course, after the 2013 Boston Marathon, the finish line had a heavy police presence. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t think to take a photo of those who were protecting the runners. It made me wonder how many of our guardians go unnoticed.
As you may be able to tell from the map, there were lots of stops where runners could get water and Gatorade. Can you see all the cups on the ground? There were a number of people just raking up the garbage to make sure it was appropriately discarded.
Ok. So maybe my family doesn’t look like the most dynamic group of “cheer-leaders.” In fact, one runner, on his way past said, “I don’t hear anything. . . .?!” Not wanting to cheer constantly for the next hour, but feeling a little guilty, we agreed to pick different categories of runners to cheer on. One of us picked neon colors; Another chose bandanas (not many of those); I chose the most discouraged looking runners.
The start and finish lines were full of people. We were in a sparsely populated section of the course. What the runners didn’t know, was that even though they couldn’t see us, we could see them coming from a long way off. Can you see them in the background? We were eagerly anticipating their arrival and were poised to catch their photos and give them a boost of encouragement.
And let us run with perseverance. . . .
I was struck by several things about the runners:
- They kept moving. The elite runners ran as if it were effortless. The middle-of-the-pack runners ran with visible effort. Those who were bringing up the rear ran with painstaking effort. They were visibly struggling, yet kept on going. All ran with perseverance.
- While the elite runners shared a physique and pace that immediately placed them at the front of the pack, the next group of runners was surprising. There wasn’t anything in their appearance that would make you think that they would be frontrunners in their class. They could be older, inelegant, and ungainly, yet they were still running at a pace that would put them ahead of others who would seem to have a natural advantage.
- It was a silent and focused group. In fact, I’ve never been on the Hudson River, with so many people, and experienced that level of quiet and concentration. No one was shushing them; they were focused on the finish line.
As you approach the next lap in the race, remember:
This course has been marked out for us from the Beginning of Time, by the Creator of the Universe.
For you! No one will be changing the course, adjusting the mile markers or moving the cones, without His will.
A great cloud of witnesses is cheering us on.
The Hebrews 11 “Hall of Fame” is in place. In addition to that great host, there are many others who are guarding, nourishing and cheering for us.
We are running together.
Whether we are elite runners, or new to the race, we will persevere, with focus and commitment, to reach the finish line.