In 2001 I ran the London Marathon. I trained pretty well but didn’t put in the longer distances needed to keep a steady pace. Two hours in, I had completed 13 miles and was feeling pretty good. I crossed Tower Bridge with confidence.
Sarah, my wife travelled from Tube station to tube station to wait at strategic points cheering me on and watching with pride.
For a while I ran with the ‘Rhino’s’ (people that are dressed up as Rhino’s obviously) hoping I’d get on telly, for no other reason (of course) than to draw attention to the charity I was raising money for. But soon, the Rhino’s (hat’s off, big respect) trotted off into the distance and my legs and my stamina began to give way.
From mile 18 it was really tough. I had to walk, then run (ish), walk, (run, stumble) and the second half took me way way longer than the first.
Around 22 miles I remember I was hardly running, and I still had miles to go, and an elderly gentleman, let’s say around 75 years old, trotted past me, and asked “You OK sonny?” I knew I was in trouble and all around me I saw people stopping, wrapped in tin foil and having vaseline rubbed into all kinds of creases, but I was determined not to stop. I carried on. I finished, with my hands aloft (well I though they were but the picture above my desk shows they weren’t raised very high) and a gritted smile.I got there. I made it.
It was with great sadness that I read about Claire Squires untimely death in this year’s marathon and it brought it all back. It’s a gruelling experience for many. The money raised in her memory touches our society and reminds us all of our vulnerability.
I was able to keep going because along the route, friends and strangers shouted out my name which was blazoned across my t-shirt. “Go on Jon” “Not long to go now Jon” “Keep going Jon”, and more.
I will always remember those voices.
Voices which across our churches and communities are needed more than ever. Voices of encouragement. It’s a missing gift. Those that will take the time, the moment, the opportunity to ‘encourage’.
There is much to be critical about, to bemoan…but a word of encouragement is more valuable than you might imagine.