Yesterday I completed my 5th "official" marathon. And by far, it was my easiest.
It wasn't the easiest one because I'm suddenly a marathoner in great running shape - my legs this morning would like to chat with you if you're tempted to believe that.
It wasn't the easiest one because it was an easier course - 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles no matter what the course is.
It wasn't easiest because of the weather - but on a side note - thank you God for that weather!!
No - more than anything else - I think it was the easiest one because it was the first one I wasn't running for me.
Two years ago I helped my buddy Colby finish his first half marathon. Crossing the finish line with that 14 year old kid was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. So last year, when he decided this year would be his first marathon, and he wanted me to be a part of it, I was all in.
Of course Covid came along and altered the plan a bit. But yesterday, there we were, just the two of us on the Capital Trail, lined up to tackle this race and make Colby's marathon dream come true.
And from the very beginning that's how I saw this race. This was my chance to help someone else make their dream come true.
I think that's why this is the first marathon I didn't hear the voices inside my head begging me to quit. They just never showed up. Maybe that's because they were too busy screaming in Colby's head. I recognized that face - Colby's face late in the race - the face of a runner dreaming of becoming a marathoner suddenly hearing the voices telling him he never will be.
I knew I was the only person there who knew those voices were liars. I knew I had an obligation to make sure Colby knew that. I knew I had not just an obligation, but a desire - maybe a desire as big as any personal desire I've ever had - to make sure he knew MY voice was far more invested in who he could become than THOSE voices.
At mile 25 I saw a kid ready to lose it. I saw tears beginning to form - I may have even heard a whimper or two. I saw a kid in the death grip of the voices in this world hell bent on us never discovering our best selves.
But I was with him. Old enough and maybe finally wise enough to recognize an opportunity right then and there for me to become my best self. Because I believe more than I ever have our best selves are discovered in entering the hurting and doubts of someone else and helping them find their best selves.
So I looked at that kid and told him you ARE going to be a marathoner. It's who you are. We've covered 25 miles - I absolutely KNOW you are covering this last 1.2 miles.
Your pain right now feels like something trying to talk you out of this; in reality, it's pain preparing to celebrate you. Preparing to remind you just how hard you worked to become your best self.
And that's what he did. He finished. In that moment he became the absolute best version of who he could be right then. I couldn't have been more proud.
As I drove home, I felt this sense of peace that I too was my best self in that moment. I was reminded that sometimes the best way to make our dreams come true is to make our dreams about someone else's dreams.
Maybe that's not even sometimes. Maybe we're wired to pursue the dreams of others and the pursuit of self goes against everything we were made to do. I don't know...
But I am certain that when we see tears in life, they aren't a signal to walk away. They are an invitation to draw near and remind someone that the tears may be a part of this moment, but they aren't going to define it.
Moving beyond them will define it. And together we're going to do just that. Move beyond them.
Lauren Jones recently spent 4 1/2 days trying to run the 350 mile Pinhoti trail faster than anyone ever had. She came up short, but the story she tells about the experience is not a story of loss. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
When I recently ran the Georgia Jewel 35-miler (37ish miles in this COVID altered addition), I had no idea I was sharing the trail with a former Georgia Bulldog offensive lineman. Only Watts Dantzler was tackling a much longer race that day than I was.