Mile Nine Cheering

Three years ago, my son ran his first half marathon.  As with many things in life, it was bittersweet. My daughter had been planning to complete her first half marathon, but she never got the chance.

So Cam trained alone.  He ran that entire 13.1 miles by himself.  I typically don’t lie to my son, but I did that day.  About mile nine, cheering for him on some remote country road my husband and I shouted, “You’ve got this!  You can do this!” We got in the car, looked at one another and said, “He’s never going to make it.”  

He did make it across the finish line, but he didn’t appear to have had much fun.  I was honestly shocked when he said he wanted to run the half marathon again the following November.

His next half-marathon he had a better idea of what was in store.  Once again, my husband and I connected with him at multiple places in the middle of nowhere.  This time, he ran again by himself, but this time, he ran with a smile on his face. The race time temperature that morning was 22 degrees with a windchill in the teens.  He cut twenty-seven minutes off his time from the previous year, and this time, not surprisingly, he said he wanted to tackle his third half marathon again next November.

So there we were this year.  Again. My husband and me. Out in the middle of nowhere in a small county in northern Indiana. We were grateful for a balmy race time temperature of 32 degrees.  This time our son had three cross country teammates with whom he ran.

There was a fairly big crowd at the start, and a decent amount of spectators at the finish, but mile after mile we didn’t see a whole bunch of people cheering on their runner.

You see, it’s a commitment to continuously cheer on a runner for that many miles.  

My husband and I are equal opportunity cheerers.  We cheer for everyone and with a mouth like mine every runner hears me cheering.  After about the third stop at mile four we began to see the same runners. My son and his friends were running in the top twenty-five and so we began to follow the pattern.  “Here comes green-shirt guy. OK, there’s the first female. Here’s the guy with the funny hat. And yep, there he is. . .here comes our son.”

Running thirteen miles in the middle of nowhere in cold weather reminds me a lot of life the past few years. My experience has been that in the beginning, everyone is cheering for you.  Everyone believes in you. Everyone is there cheering you on in the race. But then you get to about mile seven. Suddenly, the race seems monotonous. It feels cold and dark. When does it end?  Suddenly, the happy amazing ending seems elusive and impossible. Where you’ve come from certainly seems more promising than where you’re heading because let’s be real, you are running the race on faith and you can’t see where you are going.

By mile nine, only a select few even appear to care you are still running.  And by mile eleven, everyone else is back to their normal lives, warm and cozy, while the wind and sweat whips and drips down your face.

My husband and I drove around like crazy that brisk Saturday morning of my son’s latest half marathon.  I bet we parked along the side of a road and cheered loud and proud at least ten different times.  

My son knows we will cheer for him, but it was what one other runner said that really struck home.  I know her, but I don’t know her well. After the race, she said, “Thank you so much, Jaggers, for cheering for me.  You’ll never know what a difference that made on some of those long hard miles.”

That’s who I want to be.  I want to be the mile nine encourager.  I want to keep cheering on others when no one is around on those long hard miles.  

And in this crazy unpredictable world full of heartache and happiness, tragedy and triumph, I would guess none of us have to look too terribly far to know some people who are in mile nine of the journey.  And let’s be real, they need real encouragement. I’m not talking about a “like” on social media. I’m talking a real face to face person who when no one else is around to see the “kind deed” reminds them, “You’ve got this!  We know how this ends! You are going to make it.”

And how did the seventeen year old do in his third half marathon?  Well, he came in 12th. 12th out of 177 runners. Just a “small” improvement from his first 13.1 mile race.  And I can’t help but feel his dad and I played a small part in his success. We reminded him, “You’ve got this!  We know how this ends! You. Are. Going. To. Make. It!”

And now, I want to do more “mile nine cheering.”  Maybe as you read this today, your heart cries out, “I’m in mile nine, Amy J.”  If that’s the case, Dear Reader, then it is my great honor to cheer you on. . .You’ve got this!  You are going to make it! It doesn’t all end like it feels today.

Until the next Wednesday, the Lord allows.

Thanks for sharing with family and friends as I’d love for the blog to pick up more followers in the new year.