Philippians 1. 6
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
September 1, 2013 – Tupelo Marathon – Tupelo, Mississippi -
Goal – to FINISH!
GOAL – Completed – Finished!
God was going to finish what He started in the spring of this year. He would show up in ways that I knew it could ONLY be HIM carrying me through every step of the way! As you know, my original goal for Tupelo was to finish with a better Boston qualifying time than I did at Boston in April. Due to the added interest in running Boston 2014 following the horrific bomb attacks, I figured I need to really get my time five minutes better or faster. That was my goal! God’s goal or His will was something different. He wanted me to just finish it and finish it I did! Here is how the weeks leading up to the race and race day unfolded…
After a summer of running for therapy and not truly training, I had doubts. About one month before the race I finished one of my long runs in Arkansas and decided I might be better off running the shorter race in Tupelo. They have a 14.2 mile race as well. My running body did not respond well to the lack of rest and the sweet summer my soul had. It was happy but tired. I texted my running buddy, Yoli and told her my idea. Little did I know she had already talked to one of our other running buddies, Shannon. She knew Shannon was going to volunteer to run me in the second half of the marathon.
My running angels, as I have called them, were very aware of my struggles during this training season. They were all very supportive and saw God’s plan for my run before I did. They knew I could do it! God definitely blessed me with great eternal friends…don’t know what I would do without them! They were ready to step up to the start line and make sure I finished.
Yoli was out there to race and I didn’t want to hold her back. I told her, “I want you to start up front…I will be in the back. Just go!” She did! So thankful…she ran her race and I ran mine. We knew we were praying for one another and that we were supporting each other just being there. We would lean on each other from a far, as we had all summer. Yoli, Shannon and Nancy would sharpen me on this race day!
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
The Tupelo Marathon is a great little local run. This is where I qualified for Boston the first time. It has a great feel. There are only 500 runners for both the full marathon and the 14.2 run. It is run on country roads. This is from a review on marathonguides.com “The race starts in the pre-dawn darkness which is nice from a temperature standpoint but the humidity is unaffected so it is still sweltery and sticky. It also is very neat running in the dark on a quiet country road.There are very few spectators and the scenery is mostly bucolic and rustic farms.”
We arrived at the race early. Yoli and I got in our .78 mile warm up jog, stood in line at the porta potties and then found the girls to pray! We prayed for a successful run for all of us and to finish well for HIM! At 5:00 a.m. on the dot we were off. My race strategy was to run. Just run. For the first time I had my Garmin watch on to keep track of my run but I didn’t have my pace visible. I locked the watch on the stopwatch function…all I could see was the amount of time I was out there…no miles, no pace. Let’s just run! This was a huge mental breakthrough for me. I know myself well enough to know I want to be competitive but today was not the day. Today was a day to praise the Lord every step of the way for the marathon I started with mom and dad on June 12. TaylorStrong would win out in the end. I would run with emotion honoring mom’s recovery and God’s many blessings along the way!
The first hour was in the dark. I was running with my body and brain…just on feel. It was freeing! My goal was to run to the half way point, picking up my running angels around mile 10 or 11 and then run/walk if I had to. I wanted to make sure I finished injury free. The hills of Arkansas took a toll on my Achilles tendons and I didn’t want to injure them during this run. I was going to be a smart runner and I was.
The first 10 miles I ran alone. I listened to the words of praise songs and praised the Lord every step. I cried at times knowing I was doing this as a celebration for mom’s amazing work throughout the summer. I was celebrating her life with my feet and my heart. I could do this. There were times throughout the run I was overcome with emotion. My heart was heavy with joy!
Between mile 9 and 10, I was able to see the lead runner on his way back toward the finish. The course was an out and back run. He was joyfully running as well…at a 6:00 pace. How? I have NO idea. He was high fiving everyone. I decided I needed some of his energy and I gave him a high-five as well. As he approached me he startled a horse in a field. The horse took off toward the sunrise. I turned and noticed a beautiful pinkish orange ball on the horizon. God was winking at me at this point. You got this!! My sun is rising as my son rose and I am watching over you!
As I approached mile 10 I saw Shannon and Nancy. I wasn’t expecting them so soon. I was THRILLED to see them. I had a happy tear or two. They were gone by the time I met them. :) They had fresh legs and fresh hearts. We were going to do this…I was going to be escorted to the finish with my running angels by my side. My other running angel was paving the way ahead of us. What more could I want? God is so good.
We talked. We encouraged others. We were just running….just running for HIM and to celebrate mom! I had a picture of the two of us on my back…I was carrying her every step of the way! In a mile or so we met up with Yoli headed to her finish. She was moving strong. I got another high-five and off she went! We headed on to the halfway point. I was ready to hit that point and head back. I was tired. My toes hurt. My legs hurt. I needed to know we were headed home…to the finish!
At the turn around point I turned my interval trainer on. From this point on I was going to finish repeating the interval of jogging 5 minutes followed by walking 1 minute. This would save my legs and help me finish stronger. Every interval I would tell the girls when my buzzer went off in my ear. I told Nancy if she didn’t want to walk she could run around us in circles like my mom’s dog, Jasmine would do when I came in the house after a run this summer. So, I started calling the beeps Jasmine. When a new walking or running interval came around I would say, “Jasmine is here.” We would either walk or run at this time. I was wishing Jasmine would wait a little longer to show up on the run interval. But, it was fun using the code name Jasmine! Anything to keep me moving is a good thing!
We continued on our way. We sang or I sang praise songs to the girls. Sorry, Shan and Nancy! I wasn’t born to sing. They encouraged me the ENTIRE WAY! At one point Shannon asked me how many weeks I was with mom and dad. The answer – 10 weeks. She decided we would count down the miles and compare them to the weeks I was with mom. So starting at mile 16 we started my summer journey. I told stories about the weeks. We rejoiced in the gains mom made each week. I shared the amazingly sweet memories I have of that special time.
As a part of our countdown we decided to take pictures along the way. Remember, I am finishing the race. That is my goal – to finish while praising. So a picture here and there would be a fun way to count down the miles! No time worries at all! Here are a few – I will post again in the future with all of them.
You can see we had fun along the way. I stopped to stretch my aching feet…while trying to push over the Tupelo sign. I gave two mailboxes a hug…one for mom and dad! We watched our shadows and I tried to run away from them carrying mom on my back. Yes, this is what amazing friends do…they run long miles with you to make sure you make it to the finish…when they don’t have to! Running angels is what they are!!!
God knew I needed them. My physical fatigue was settling in. My heart and mind were actually pretty good and wanting to keep going. But, my legs and my feet ached. They helped me push through. The Lord provided them! He provided strength for them to help me every step of the way. One more step, one more mile….One more step, one more mile….that’s how we made it. We picked up a runner or two along the way and ran with them. Encouraging them the same way! Giving to others took our minds off our miles.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
The Lord also provided a surprise. A Godincidence! He is so good at that…I encourage you to look for His kindness in your life. Here is how He was extremely kind on top of the fact I had amazing support out there! As we were approaching the last 5k – 3.1 miles, I was struggling. Jasmine was killing me. I wanted to walk. But, I kept pushing through. As we started one of our intervals a runner next to us said we were keeping a good pace and we welcomed him to stick with us. He asked us where we were from…the girls said Chattanooga. I asked him where he was from and he said Little Rock, Arkansas. I of course had to make a reference to the Razorbacks. Then I told him I was born in Arkadelphia. He told me he went to Ouachita Baptist University…which is where I went. So I asked him when he graduated. He said 1993. I graduated in 1993. I took my sunglasses off and said “I did too, who are you?” He replied while taking his sunglasses off, “Chris Esch.”
Did we know each other? Yes. He told me he had just talked to my brother last week. Wow!!! God you are SOOO good. We chatted and caught up. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years. We figured out we were both were running our 10th marathon. We also decided we both needed this pick me up at this point in the race. We knew we could finish but we were struggling. (Side note: The picture below came from an app that delivers a daily running quote. My phone beeped at me a little after the halfway point. It comes through at 7:18 a.m. every day. We had been on the road now 2 hours and 18 minutes at this point. I was tired. The beep was different from Jasmine so I looked at my phone to see what it was…it was the quote below…boy, did God provide again!)
We were not going to quit and God provided us with a final wind to push to the finish! Each other. We went on to chat for a while Nancy and Shannon held back and let us catch up, knowing this was a true God thing! Then Shannon, Nancy and I went on to finish. After finishing we caught up again for a photo-op. The photo-op at mile 24 shows us making the letter “o”….for OBU. (not really, but I can’t tell what it is for yet…it is a surprise.)
Great to see you Chris! Hope you keep running well and tell all of our OBU friends HI! Thanks for giving me a final push to finish well!
As I ran toward the finish, Yoli ran up and ran with us in. The girls then dropped off and encouraged me through the finish line. Emotion took over! I guarantee the finish line photos will NOT be keepers…I was bawling my eyes out! Why? Because God had allowed me to finish what HE started. I was able to persevere and praise every step of the way. I was able to see His grace through beautiful scenery, friendly runners, and accommodating volunteers. I experienced Godincidences such as running with Chris, receiving my daily running quote, being able to encourage Kelly our new friend. I was able to experience eternal love from eternal friends running and praying in front of me – Yoli…and running beside me – Shannon and Nancy. This was God’s Amazing Race! Praising Him for all He has done. The ups and downs of mom’s injury and recovery. The sweet summer I was able to spend with mom and dad helping and giving back to the two people who brought me into this world. God is good all the time!
When I finished, my first call was to Mike because he was unable to be there. He was excited for me! It was great to hear his voice after such an emotional run. He is my rock! Two years ago when I ran Tupelo and qualified for Boston, Mike, my biggest supporter, was there to place the medal around my neck and give me a hug! Today, he was there in spirit every step of the way. I also found out when I got home he followed me every step of the way with my Road Id app and his Ipad…I love that guy!!!
This year, because I was crying so hard, I ran past the medals. Crazy! But, this allowed my dear friend and Godsend to give me my medal. We were supposed to train together all summer and were unable too! So we encouraged one another from a far. We ran and then we completed our work together…thanks Yoli for always making me a better person by being you!
Yoli ran well! She was 12th women overall so we knew she was going to receive an age group award. We had to wait for the awards. We refueled, stretched and rested while we waited. During this time I noticed they had posted the results on a trailer off to the side. I went over to see my official results. I had finished in 4:39:36 – with one bathroom stop, multiple picture stops, walking breaks and a stretch break. I decided that was pretty good! I was happy! Then I noticed I was 4th in my age group(40-44). Yay! Then a thought crossed my mind…if any of the ladies above me win the master’s (40-49) award I will move up a slot to 3rd and will get an award! Crazy!!! God Crazy! Only God could provide me with an age group award after a fun run like this one!!!
Guess what? God did it…but He did it even better! Not only did a lady in my age group win the masters award, a lady in my age group got 3rd overall so that moved me up not just one slot but two!!!! What does that mean? I didn’t get 3rd in my age group but 2nd!!! Can you believe it? No, but yes. As I say, God is good ALL the time. Mom – that was for you!!!!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God orchestrated the Tupelo Marathon events to show me, yes, He is in control. He will allow me to bend but not to break. Mom is an overcomer and I was today too. He is our deliver! Blessings may come through raindrops. Healing may come through tears. A thousand sleepless nights may be what it takes to know HE is near. Trials maybe mercies in disguise. But He will provide! He will finish what He starts! He will help us remember with the pain that this is not our home…we have an eternal one waiting…if we just believe. His mercies are new every day!
I needed my running angels today to help me believe I could do it. I did! Why? Because He gave me the strength to finish what He started. He wants the glory for mom’s journey…He wants the glory for my run….the two journeys were for HIM! He blessed our steps every mile, every step – It was and still is HIS AMAZING RACE!!!!
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.
Hebrews 12.1 & 2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This post is first dedicated to my mom who is still my daily inspiration. She is doing so well! She has shown me what determination is all about. She did not quit when she wanted to. She put one foot in front of the other daily – through pain and frustration. She showed me what finishing is all about…one mailbox at a time! I love you mom! I am so proud to be your daughter – God blessed me beyond measure! Daddy – you too have been an inspiration in the way you have handled this journey with the love of your life. You have shown us all how to stand strong with Christ as your rock during adversity. As I said to mom, God blessed me when He gave me you as a dad. We are TaylorStrong thanks to your leadership and your love for the Lord! To my siblings – Lisa and Rob – thank you! Thank you for your love and never-ending support. You all were with us every step of the way too! God blessed our family beyond measure!
I also wanted to dedicate it to my running angels – Yoli, Shannon and Nancy. I really do not know if I would have had the mental endurance to finish without the gentle encouraging you all provided along the way. Yoli – with your ‘focus’ to run your race, your encouraging prayers and your encouraging spirit! You make me a better person! Shannon and Nancy – what can I say? You ran as bandits to help me be an overcomer and a finisher. You let me cry. You helped me laugh! You pushed me and you encouraged me! I love all three of you more than words can say! Thanks for being the best friends ever!!!
Mike – this journey has affected you as much as me. You have been my warrior every step of the way and you always are!! For every step I have never been alone!! You are there with me even in distance! I love you no matter what and I am so thankful God gave me YOU! I am thankful to be a Newsom – thank you to my Newsom family for your love during this time! Your prayers and messages were precious!
For all of you out there – whether you are my Run for God running angels of you are one of the amazing people I get the blessing to call you friend – thanks for being by my side during this journey. This race was a culmination of emotion and the celebration of a journey all of you helped us through with your prayers. God gave me you all too! You and I may be life long friends or we may have never met – but God led you to me for a reason. Thanks for sharing one of my most defining journey’s ever – my TaylorStrong journey. God is good all the time. If you don’t know Him – He will provide you with a peace that nothing else can. He made you for HIM! Trust HIM! In the dark times He will provide. He loves you and wants to offer you an eternal home too! I am praying for all who are reading this post and all of my posts. My prayer is you will find God’s love – a love that makes life on earth possible because it is not our home – Heaven and eternity are!!!
For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not parish but have eternal life.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
For whoever calls upon the Name Of the Lord Jesus will be saved.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
With the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.