Slow and Steady Wins All Kinds of Races (Even if You’re 94)

steadyRace Ready

The night of the Team in Training banquet on the eve of the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon, I sat near the front with the Team Arizona members. An elderly lady with big glasses and bright red lipstick made her way to a table in the row away from me and sat down. I wondered if she attended as a guest of an athlete, or if she planned on running the following day.

Imagine my shock when the emcee called Harriette Thompson to the platform to receive a fundraising award and the elderly lady stood to her feet. A man walked beside her to the platform, and held out his arm to steady her as she climbed the steps.

When the emcee mentioned that Harriette had raised over $100,000 in her lifetime for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I cheered and clapped along with everyone else. When the emcee announced that the following day Harriette would attempt to set a record as the oldest half-marathon finisher, I thought I misunderstood Harriette’s age. Ninety-four.

And here I was feeling accomplished for running a marathon at almost 51.

Passing a Legend

This 94-year-old just finished a half-marathon. I started the race, I entertained myself by people watching—both spectators and other runners. The man dressed in a jester’s costume standing .2 miles into the race with a sign that said, “You’re almost there! Only 26 miles to go!” made me laugh out loud. Slow and steady, I told myself. You’ll finish the race if you just keep going slow and steady.

An hour after I started I noticed a phalanx of purple-shirted runners moving at a slower pace with their arms outstretched. I moved to the side and kept glancing at them, wondering why they ran in formation. And then I noticed Harriette running at the center of the group.

I slowed to her pace and pulled out my phone to snap a photo of the oldest woman to ever finish a marathon (she accomplished that feat at age 92). “Go, Team!” I called out as I picked up my pace and passed the phalanx of runners.

Do I Make My Race All About Me?

As I continued my run, I couldn’t help but think of the implications of what I had seen. No, not a 94-year-old woman running a half-marathon (although that blew my mind). The phalanx of runners around her gave my mind something to mull over as the miles unfolded under my tired feet.

Those running behind Harriette had their arms outstretched in order to prevent some other weary runner from accidently mowing her down. How often do we as Christians run interference for our weaker brothers and sisters to keep enthusiastic do-gooders from mowing them down?

The runners next to Harriette ran within arm’s reach of her in order to steady her if she stumbled. Do we run the race close at hand, adjusting our pace and our aspirations in order to steady a frail sister over rough terrain?

The runners in front of her picked the route with the least potholes and obstacles and let others know Harriette needed space. How often do we pay attention to those who need someone to run interference for them with snarky Christians who jump to judgment?

Slow and Steady, Indeed

Three weeks later, I still ponder Harriette’s accomplishment (she did finish the race and won the distinction of the title of world’s oldest female half-marathoner). How could a little old lady RUN a marathon two years ago and speed walk a half marathon this year? Slow and steady.

Harriette didn’t start training until March because health problems got in her way—cancer does that. She has survived both oral cancer and squamous cell carcinoma. Nothing in her previous 93 years would point to the eventuality of her becoming a record-setting runner. She worked as a concert pianist, raised a family, and took up running when she turned 76.

You don't need to be an athlete to run a #marathon, you just need to set a goal and stick to it. #fmfparty Click To Tweet

If a two-time cancer survivor can run a marathon and a half-marathon in her 90s, just imagine what the weaker members of your church congregation could do if the members gathered around them a formed a phalanx of support. From now on when I run, um, go to church, I plan on seeking out those I can support. I want to join a team of people who help others finish the most important race of their lives.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

I want to be part of the team that ensures success in others in the race of life. #fmfparty #teamwork Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit our other #InspireMeMonday host site over at Blessed (but Stressed)!

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  1. This must have been such an inspiration to have watched Harriette run, especially with everyone around her supporting her to make sure that she finishes well. I like how you then linked this into helping others within our church. So often we go to church to help ourselves, we forget others are there in the race too. FMF neighbour 😊

  2. That is such an inspiring story! I think to complete a marathon or half marathon at any age is a huge achievement but for her to do it in her 90s is amazing! I love that she had a team of people there to support her, and I agree, it would make a big difference if we had more of that attitude in the church and looked to support and encourage those who are weaker. It is important to remember we’re all in the race together.
    Lesley recently posted…6 Reasons Why Your Story MattersMy Profile

    1. Amen! This life is a race we all participate in, and it’s important to not marganalize the ones who don’t appear to be succeeding!

  3. Anita, I am so, so grateful I stopped here today. This is truly not only inspiring but was exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you so much!

  4. Wow, how powerful is that! And isn’t God amazing to literally put people like Harriet in our paths. That’s a paradigm shift for me. Recovering from knee replacement, I am embarrassed to admit, more than once I’ve said if so&so can do it, I can, dripping with sarcasm and derision. Your story gently tells me that He uses others to challenge and encourage us, not as fodder for mockery. Thank you for redirecting my path!

  5. Anita—now I see what you mean, we are totally on the same page with our blog posts this week. I love how you focussed on the “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” part… how often I neglect my fellow runners. Not on purpose, but being so fixed on the race itself perhaps. The picture of this dear lady running with a support group of loving runners is just beautiful. You’ve given me much to ponder 🙂 Stopping by from #CoffeeForYourHeart

  6. How precious is that. Just as with the race of life, it’s sweeter when we remember it’s not about us. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Anita. You have a fan-girl at #ChasingCommunity this week. 🙂 ((graces))

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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