Beyond Room 119

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Being on the sidelines

Running is an incredible sport.

As a runner, I’ve grown so much from the thousands of miles that I’ve run. Today, though, I had the opportunity to see the sport from a different side: as a spectator.

Many of my friends were running a local race today. Some were doing the half-marathon distance, while some others ran a full. Since I wasn’t running it, I went with some friends to cheer them on. Where we stood marked miles 4 and 9 for the half-marathoners, and for the fullers, it was about mile 16 and 22. Armed with cowbells, signs, tutus, a MacGyver-style Velcro cowbell belt, and our voices, we cheered on hundreds of runners as they passed us by.

Almost three hours we stood there, and I sit here now in awe of all the runners I saw today. They all accomplished the same end result, but to each of them, the journey to that finish line was for their own reasons and in their own way. I’ll never know most of their stories, but some of the runners stood out, and they inspire me more than they will ever know.


The woman who was running with a prosthetic leg.

The woman who wore a sweatshirt that said in handwritten letters, “Six weeks postpartum #noexcuses”.

Our friend who was trying to qualify for Boston. On the way out at mile 16, he looked strong and on pace. By the time he returned at mile 22, he was far past where he needed to be. Yet he ran on, with strong strides and focus in his eyes.

The man who wore a camouflage backpack that looked like it weighed 40 pounds and carried an American flag.

The two mother/child pairs that I saw. The kids were probably ten or twelve, and pushing through each mile without complaint or cares.

The older gentleman – probably around 65 – who was on pace to run a 3:40 marathon.

The woman wearing a shirt that read, “I run for those who can’t.”

Another friend who is such a strong supporter and encourager of everyone was out there today. I know he has his own personal goals and would love to PR, but he never talks about that, and instead, gives all his energy to help others reach their goals. I know he’ll never really talk about his time or how he did, but he’ll instead talk about how fun it was, and how the other runners are feeling.

The three or four teams of Ainsley’s Angels that were out there today. Folks from this group are at most local races, and they always inspire me. The runners push the “riders” in a “racing chariot.” The riders are usually kids with various disabilities who can’t run (and often, can’t walk, either). Runners are volunteers who choose to help these kids not only run, but fly by – at least for a few hours.

The marathon runner who laughed at our signs and then pointed at us like we were movie stars. His love for what he was doing was contagious.

A friend who has had her ups and downs with running over the past few years. She didn’t think today would be a particularly good race, but she went out there, gave it all she had, and had enough energy to laugh at the sign I made for her. She’s a constant reminder of determination, grit, and quiet persistence.

The couple in their seventies who walked the half-marathon together.

The half-marathoners who were near the back of the pack. For some of them, each step was a struggle, and yet, they pressed on.

The folks who just wanted to have fun out there – the older woman with a green tutu and a giant shamrock hat, the man with a huge lobster hat, the women wearing glittery tutus, and the two men wearing kilts (one of whom was a full marathoner!). These people were still running these long distances, but wanted to do it in their own way.


Cheering for all these folks today reminded me to never take running for granted. They reminded me that each step we take is a gift, and one that means something different to each of us. Crossing that finish line is great, but it’s while we are on the journey to it that we have the chance to push ourselves, to help others make it to the finish, and to discover our own strength. The runners today were beautiful examples of that – and it was well worth having only half a voice left now to see them on that journey.


Love songs

I’ve fallen in love with music in a special way over the past five or six months.

I sing along at the top of my lungs in the car (though to be honest, that’s nothing new).

I try to figure out the strumming patterns of the guitar (and mostly fail).

I find myself listening to music on the radio or through my iPod and trying to understand the song more – and not understand in the sense of, “What is the artist trying to say here?” but more, “How is this song impacting me on this level? How are the pieces of the song all interacting together to create this emotion, this feeling?”

I listen harder. Not just to the lyrics and the melody anymore, but to the background of the song as well. To the way the notes and chords create meaning on their own.

By learning to listen in a different way, I see more of the poetry of music.

Now, most people who know me are aware that I love country music. By this point, most of them have learned to either embrace or, at the very least, accept that fact. As much as I love it, I recognize that country music often tends to center around a few main themes: trucks, drinking, and love. Recently, I was walking back from my apartment’s gym at night. Some country love song was playing in one ear, and the other ear was listening to the music of the night around me. The stars were glittering above me, and as I walked through the night, looking at the sky, I was hit by a thought.

What if I looked at these songs as love songs between me and God?

That made me stop for a moment (though, because I was by the dumpster, I began walking again pretty quickly). I began running through some of my favorite songs in my head.

Rascal Flatts has a million love ballads:

I couldn’t see how every sign pointed straight to you

That every long lost dream lead me to where you are

Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars

Pointing me on my way into your loving arms


Keith Urban is another one of my favorites:

That you’re always in my heart,

You’re always on my mind

But when it all becomes too much,

You’re never far behind

And there’s no one that comes close to you

Could ever take your place

‘Cause only you can love me this way


Lady Antebellum is up there too:

This world keeps spinning faster

Into a new disaster so I run to you

I run to you baby

And when it all starts coming undone

Baby you’re the only one I run to

I run to you


It’s an idea to be taken with many grains of salt, of course. But the idea resonates with me because of the type of love that all of these songs either have or are searching for. It’s that search for someone who understands us completely, who is there for us in the good times and the bad, and for someone who turns the chaos of the world into peace.

Some people say that’s the kind of love in fairy tales. Well, sure. I’d argue that human relationships are capable of it, too. More importantly, though, so is our relationship with God. He’s the one who made this thing called love, so who else knows how to do it better? The type of love that he gives us is more perfect, more complete, and more filling than anything we could find on this earth. Because of that, I think it makes sense to remind ourselves of that every so often. And though I doubt the artists meant for this to be an interpretation of their song, many of them now make me think of just this, and I imagine God crooning these ballads to his children on earth.

I have yet to hear God’s singing voice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it sounds a bit like Josh Groban. Maybe that will be my next nighttime revelation…or maybe that’s a bit of wishful thinking.