A couple weeks ago I participated in a race put on by a club called "Atletas por Cristo." This club, whose name means "Athletes for Christ." The race was a 10k, and since I did the Peachtree this past summer with my dad, I figured I had it in the bag. I mean, so what if I hadn't been running consistently in a month? I'm young. I'm supple. I had it. NOT.
First of all, I ran three times before the race. There is a place called "La Ciudad Deportiva" downtown here that my roomie and neighbor had been going to a couple nights a week. The name literally means "Sports City" because there are so many different things you can do; there are basketball courts, tennis courts, a aerobics classes, and a 2k that goes around the entire park. So in the 2 weeks prior, I had run/walked around this 2k track and done 4 laps each time, which is 8k for you non-math kids like me. So I figured I was ready for the 10k.
Boy was I wrong. First of all, running on a track is completely different than running on a course in that: 1) there are hills, 2) you are surrounded by people who you want to think you are super in shape and capable (is that just me?), and 3) there are hills. Add to that the fact that I am super out of shape when it comes to running and the elevation of the city and you had a situation just begging for trouble.
At the starting line, I was near the beginning (mistake #1, other than doing the race in the first place) with all of the insanely fit 2% body fat sprinters. These people do 10ks and other athletic events all the time and run them in less than 50 minutes. I'm just happy to make it out alive with another story to share. So anyways, I start out in the beginning and of course I have to run to make sure I look like I belong. I start out running and immediately want to turn around, but obviously I keep going.
I was ready to quit after the first kilometer. I am not exaggerating. I was tired because I usually walk a kilometer/mile before running, and that did not happen. So I told myself that I had to run at least the first 2 kilometers and then I would walk; I didn't care who saw me walking so early in the game. So I did just that. I started walking when I saw the sign for 2k, even though I was only 1/5 of the way through at that point.
It had been maybe 30 seconds of me walking and feeling like a complete loser since everyone else was running, and this cute little man came up to me and grabbed my left hand. My left hand had my ipod, so I didn't know what he wanted; I thought he was wondering what I was listening to, but no. Oh no. He grabbed my ipod from my left hand, put it in my right hand, and proceeded to hold my left hand as he ran with me. I could have cried. He said, "You are not going to walk one!" I thought to myself, "Oh, yes I am!"
This is my friend Willy. He took my hand at the 2k mark and ran with me the rest of the way. He literally would not leave my side, even though he could have. Willy is a believer and is an avid runner. He also offered to buy me water at the convenience store when I asked where the water was, and he slowed down when I had to power walk my way through side cramps. He could have gone on and finished the race 20 minutes before I did. But he didn't. And for that sacrifice, I am forever grateful. I thanked him profusely, because I know he could have done better, but he just said, "Today it's for you, sister." As in sister in Christ. Wow.
When Willy took my hand, I was so relieved that I didn't have time to be embarrassed. No one has ever done anything like that for me before. I just thought to myself, "This is what the body of Christ is." People who care so much for one another that they take the time to love you in the midst of your hardest and ugliest moments. I mean, even before Willy took my hand, I was thinking to myself, as long as I'm not the last one to finish I'll be okay. And then the police were right behind us at one point, and I thought to myself, Oh no! Not today! I'm not going down like this! And I kicked into high gear and ran just so that we wouldn't be at the very end. I was so full of pride that I thought I could dominate the race, or at least run the whole thing, no problem. Boy was I wrong. That day was so special to me, though. Because on that day, I experienced the love of the body of Christ in action through a stranger I had never met before. I'll never forget it.