Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
~ 1 Corinthians 9:24 [ESV]
What is the prize we strive to attain? Is it to win a race or place in our age group so that we get that “special” medal or trophy? I really don’t think so. I often hear people say in a marathon that to finish is to win, regardless what place you come in. Too often, I think I lose sight of what the prize is. Is it the medal they’ll give me when I finish a marathon or half marathon? Is it the shirt? I personally think I get more fulfillment and satisfaction from seeing someone else, especially a friend, do something well. I love seeing that sense of accomplishment that sometimes comes with an outpouring of emotion. For a lot of us, we spent 16 to 20 weeks of targeted training to run that first marathon. Many hours and miles spent on the road and all that hard work comes flooding back into your mind when you finally see the finish line. It’s awesome! However, some of my best runs are the ones where I’m just there to help a friend reach a goal time, or sometimes just to finish. Medals and trophies are nice but it’s the things you do for others that have lasting impact.
Yesterday I read a fantastic article about Meghan Vogel, a junior at West Liberty-Salem High School in West Liberty, Ohio. She won the 1,600 meter championship at the Division III girls state meet in Columbus. Of course, that is an impressive accomplishment, but what caught everyone’s attention is what she did in her next event. You see, she also ran the 3,200 meter race later that same day. Apparently, the earlier race took a lot out of her and she faltered during the 3,200 meters. However, with only about 20 meters to go in the race, another runner collapsed in front of Meghan. That runner was Arden McMath, a sophomore from Arlington High School. Next comes the amazing part. Instead of running by Arden, Meghan helped her to her feet and basically carried her across the finish line. She even made sure that Arden stayed ahead of her. In the official results, Arden finished in 14th place and Meghan was 15th (last). Her selfless act has gotten her noticed everywhere. She and Arden were even invited to be on Fox & Friends earlier this week to tell their story. I think Meghan’s quote some time after this sums it up, “It’s been crazy. I can’t understand why everyone wants to talk to me, but I guess I’m getting used to it now. It’s strange to have people telling me that this was such a powerful act of kindness and using words like ‘humanity.’ It’s weird. When I hear words like that I think of Harriet Tubman and saving people’s lives. I don’t consider myself a hero. I just did what I knew was right and what I was supposed to do.”
Meghan’s actions are not surprising to me on many fronts. As a distance runner, we always look out for one another. It’s just what we do. That’s one of the best parts of running is the support system that comes from the group dynamic. We all have days where the run is fantastic and also have days where the run is not so good. I don’t know how people who run by themselves stick with it. I applaud their ability and discipline. For me, however, I need my running group. I need that person who’s having a good run on those days when my legs are tired or I’m just not having fun. The encouragement we offer one another isn’t just confined to the streets or trails. We know that we can count on each other to be there all along the way. Where else can you get that in life?
I think Meghan expressed it best in the following quote: “Distance runners kind of have this camaraderie that they build from running against each other for sometimes six years. You just kind of get this relationship with them and you become a family.” I couldn’t agree more! That’s exactly how I feel about my running group.