Respect the Run!


From Wednesday through Friday, I will be at the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.    Although I look forward to this trip as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and renew the spirit, this has been tougher to do over the last couple of years.

As you know, I direct the Miles for Mission 5K during the conference (http://milesformission.org) and the amount of work to pull off this event  is quite large.    As we approach the day, I am trying to juggle a great number of balls and I usually come screeching into conference with brakes squealing.

That said, and in honor of the great run that will be occurring this week, I decided to share a race report that was used as a passing of the peace moment at Asbury Church.

Two weeks ago, I joined two co workers and 6100 other runners and walkers for the Merrimack Count Savings Bank Rock ‘N Race.   It was the ninth annual 5K run/walk held in Concord to benefit the Payson Cancer Center at Concord Hospital.

After the spectacle that was the Fitness is Fun 5K on May 5th in Chesterfield, NH, I was hoping to have a much better showing.   For those of you who might not know, the Chesterfield Race was supposed to be on a “relatively” flat course and as such, I started that race full tilt.   After the mile mark, I looked at my watch, and decided I was going to set a personal record and I was all smiley inside.

That smile turned bitter when I turned and saw the straight up incline of Winchester Rd. and I quickly began running at a snail’s pace.  Needless to say, I learned that relatively flat means Mt. Everest in Chesterfield speak.   For those of you who travel along Winchester Rd, please look for my left lung, as I think I coughed it up somewhere on the two mile mark.

Anyways, with that being my only 5K of the season, and not even remotely happy with my performance, I eagerly embraced the opportunity to race and the Rock ‘N Race this past Thursday.   I learned on Wednesday that there would be 6100 people on the course, and my mouth opened.   That was 20 times bigger than any of the largest races I had been to before.   At first it was intimidating, but I said, a race is a race, right?

Wrong.

The closed down Main Street in Concord, and after the starters gun went off it took three minutes to reach the start line.   The best that I can explain it would be like running through Wal-Mart at Black Friday.   For the first mile it was elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder, and sweatiness to sweatiness.

After a quarter mile I quickly got frustrated.   I would find myself blocked in, and having to stop as people lumbered ever so slowly in front of me.    People would decide that running was too much work and just stop, directly in front of you.   Sometimes they would do so with eight of their friends walking shoulder to shoulder.   

To make matters worse, every half mile there was food.   At the half mile mark, there was Chocolate Covered strawberries.   There were Nacho’s at the 2 mile mark.    There were also a half dozen candy stops.   Several people offered beer from their front yards.  With each pit stop I passed, I grew more and more confused.  

I kept telling myself that this is not how you are supposed to run a race.

At one point, I had finally managed to get up to my race speed, which is about 7 miles per hour.   There immediately in front of me was a heavy set beast of a man, with a half dozen chocolate strawberries in one hand, and a 20 ounce diet coke in the other.   As I was making my approach to pass this man, he caught wind of the Nacho’s and like a hound when it sees the rabbit, stopped dead in his track.  

In an attempt to avoid collision with his bulbous backside, I jumped to the left, where – unbeknownst to me – stood a little ten year old boy eating his own Nachos.    This 225 pound frame travelling at 7 miles per hour struck that little boy and sent him hurdling into the bushes.   Luckily no one was hurt in the ruckus, but it became clear that this was not a race to set a personal record in.

At every half mile there was a band of some sort of the other.   Each thought it would be funny to sings songs about the silliness of running, which further added to my confusion.    At one point post nacho collision, I wanted to stop in the middle of the mob; raise my hands to the air and scream out:

 “HEY EVERYBODY! GAMES OVER! YOURE NOT RESPECTING THE RUN!”.

Perhaps I am a bit of a purist, but it was a party disguised as a run.   Running is about healthiness and pushing your body to new levels, not about how much you can ingest before you hurl.    I am very deliberate in telling people that running is my Sabbath, and it was almost as if it was being profaned by junk food, beer, and foolish people.  In the end, I was both a bit angry and disappointed due to the run interrupted.

Shortly thereafter, I realized that this is often the same feeling I get with the church.   Sometimes, when I turn on the news or listen to some show on television, I find myself wanting to scream at those who look at church as anything but what church is supposed to be.   For some it’s no different than Thursday’s run.   It’s a party, it’s a social club, it’s a chance to eat, or to do anything else but to be truly about the business of the church.   

It’s oddly ironic that when I see these things I want to stop, throw my arms in the air and scream out “HEY EVERYBODY! GAMES’ OVER!”

 As I think about this desire, I realize that it’s our responsibility as people of faith, to be one voice  among many.   Maybe it’s all about figuring out – in the end – how to make our voice the loudest for our community.    For it’s not about the networking, the food, or the social stuff;  it’s about making disciples for the transformation of our community and our world. 

We do that by opening our minds, hearts, and doors to God and one another.  We do that by respecting the run.

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