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9.16.2010

THE RACE IS ON

I love the movie "Forest Gump" for many reasons.  I love when Forest just one day starts running, and runs and runs and runs and runs until he stops.  We're never sure as the audience fully why he started running and what prompted him to stop just as abruptly as he started.  Running is addictive, freeing and mentally cleansing.  When I was in kindergarten there was a boy in my class named Mike.  He, I had known all of my long life of 5 years.  Mike was first off a boy, and secondly, a very tall boy with very long legs.  Though Mike acted tough, through kindergarten and through my life, he had a soft spot for me.  Not romantically at all.  But he knew I saw clear through to his heart.  I wanted to race Mike at recess - him, the tall legged one and me, the short skinny girl.  So, the recess crowds lined up to be non-ticket holding spectators.  We lined up side by side, Mike towering over me.  In those few seconds before someone counted backwards from 5 signifying a starting gun, Mike turned to me quietly and whispered, "You go first. I'll give you a head start."  5 4 3 2 1!!!  I cut loose, looked over my shoulder to see Mike still at the starting line.  Gaining kindergarten momentum now I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see Mike, with no effort at all, engulfing the distance between us like a giant eating miniature marshmallows.  He won the race with little contest.  But, he also won my friendship for letting me see his tough boy heart had a softness to it.  I would see that in him over the years even though the race of his life was lined with addictions.  Going out for track in junior high I ran the hurdles.  Something about the fluidity of the motion of your arms, the angle of your body and the bend of your legs in this synchronized rhythm made it seem like a magical dance on speed.  I won some, but probably lost more.  When I entered high school I determined not to go out for track.  I continued to run on my own though and was frequently seen by the track team and coach running after school while they practiced.  The fastest girl in our class and the track team was a girl named Lori.  One day when gym class was over and we were relaxing waiting for the bell to dismiss us, someone suggested a race.  A race between Lori - undisputed speed champion and me - a virtual running no one.  I don't know why I agreed.  With only minutes left in class her and I lined up to race.  It was so spur of the moment I had no opportunity to put back on my tennis shoes.  I was barefooted.  A small crowd had gathered and I looked over to see one of the track coaches watching.  Someone screamed, "On your mark.  Get set.  GO!"  We took off running on the cement balcony that circled the gym.  I could feel the cold cement and the sound my feet made hitting it while running.  I was like Forest.  I ran and ran and ran and ran and ran.  Every muscle in my body screaming but forcing it harder.  I crossed the finish line.  I had won barefooted with all the effort I had in me against an opponent greater than I.  There is nothing like running against yourself. Though mostly, at least at my age, that's all I can handle!  If Forest ran to clear his mind of something, maybe it just took a long, long time to be clear of it.  I run for some of the same reasons; to clear my mind and spirit, to test myself physically and to get to the finish line.  Last night I was running in the cool darkness of the evening.  I was struggling to finish the 3 miles.  In my mind I went back to Mike and Lori, junior high hurdles, running along the road I grew up on with corn well above your head lining both sides.  Some races even with an advantage you lose.  Some races with odds stacked against you, you magically win.  And some races you win by not placing at all but just finishing.  I want to finish life strong - across the finish line having been full of grace, grasping fully God's deep love for me - His constant pursuit, and having given the good stuff away to those around me.

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