No, it wasn't me! My days of marathon running are long gone but today my son Simon ran the Cambridge half-marathon again. With two of my grandchildren we went to give support which turned out to be much more of a sacrificial effort than I expected. Arriving (as requested) an hour before the race began we froze in heavy rain while floating on mud. 9000 competitors with supporters were trying to keep warm and/or joining immense queues for the portaloos. It was a sea of misery with a loudspeaker exhorting competitors to stay alive and focused. Eventually, as the mass of runners took off we tramped to the first agreed cheering point - sheltering in a shop entrance until the last moment when we burst out to cheer Simon on.
Desperately we broke away from the crowds to secure hot chocolates which brought feeling back to fingers and toes. Then we set off for the next cheering point some two-thirds along the course on a crowded Trinity Street. We realized that we were at least half an hour early for Simon as elite runners shot by but, with the surrounding crowds, we began to get into the spirit of the occasion.
Each runner had their name printed clearly on their vests under their numbers. We began to shout out specific encouragement by name. I felt particularly drawn to those who looked close to collapse and a rousing shout: 'Tom, keep going, you're doing well!' 'Susan, well done...keep going' etc. brought not only actual smiles but visible spurts of energy. I particularly cheered every Michael, Simon, and Robert with loud partiality. Runners were also high-fiving spectators if they were brave enough to hold out their hands. Anton nearly lost his right hand as an enthusiastic runner took a swipe; after that he was noticeably subdued.
Simon said that it really helped him knowing that we would be at three agreed cheering points, including the final stretch. Over the loudspeaker, which broadcast commentary as people passed the finishing line, came the words: 'And here comes Simon with his face wracked with pain!' He completed the 13.1 miles in 2 hours 10 minutes! We rejoiced with him, going back for roast beef and a hot shower (at separate times!)
It obvious to see this an illustration of the race of faith with the cloud of witnesses cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1, 2) and the thought of being encouraged by name is truly cheering as we run with endurance, isn't it?