It was a beautiful afternoon at Swegle Elementary School, in Salem, Oregon. Our third grade class headed outside to the track, and prepared for Jaycee Relay time trials. This annual event featured a 100m run in which the top-4 fastest boys and girls were invited to be on a relay team for each grade, representing your school. It was a high honor and third grade was the last year in which I would be given that honor.
When my teacher said “go” I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. Mr. Burns laughed hysterically as I crossed the finish line and gave me a childhood nickname, that thankfully, didn’t stick: “Crazy legs Castaneda.” More importantly, though, I had a fast enough time to make the boys team.
On race-day, I was so thankful for that team of runners. I wasn’t the fastest guy on the team (in fact, I’ve never been a very fast runner; always envious of the fast and natural runners around me!) but I knew that with our team we could do well. If we made clean baton handoffs, if we stayed in our lanes and focused on our running and not the runners around us, I knew we had a chance. Our second place finish was testament to the power of team; the power of community.
Now that I’m preparing for my first long-distance run, I’m even more envious of the fast, natural runners. I read Born to Run and I’m not convinced there’s a natural runner residing somewhere in my body, however, I’m committed to learning and making my 1/2 marathon as meaningful as possible.
One of the first people I met who is a true "natural runner" is Evelyn Young. I was the youth pastor at Bethany Baptist in Salem, Oreon when Evelyn and her husband Aaron started attending. It wasn’t long before Traci and I learned about her passion for running. She is a runner. She runs because it’s in her blood. She can’t help herself.
When my wife and I hosted our first 6.21k solstice run, Eveyln came and competed. She took first for the women that year, and then again for three years in a row. She usually jogged from her house, to the park where the race was hosted. She took a few warm up laps around a nearby track, ran the race, then ran it again to “cool down.” She loves running and she has been a source of information, and inspiration, for me as I’ve undertaken a running goal for 2014.
In fact yesterday, Evelyn competed in her first Boston Marathon. You might remember last year’s marathon was tragically ended when a bomb exploded near the finish line. The ensuing car chase, man hunt and eventual shoot-out led to a whole community coming together. Strangers housed strangers to get them off the streets during the chaos. Stories emerged of people serving the medical needs of others even risking their own safety in the unknown aftermath of the first bomb. The event brought people together in such strong fashion, even the Boston Red Sox used it a motivation for their playoff run and world series victory in 2013.
Yesterday, Evey was uniting with thousands of runners who were standing with Boston and with the global community that was a part of the event. These runners were letting evil people know that Boston won’t be deterred, and the community won’t give in to fear.
Community is a powerful weapon against fear. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to make sure you have others in your life who are headed the same direction you are -- others willing to live the Overboard Life with you. We all will face opposition. We all be confronted by real and often dangerous fears, and we will all need the support of others to keep going.
Maybe that’s why the writer of Hebrews uses the “us” and “we” pronouns instead of the “you” and “your” in 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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus...” If everyone’s race was an individual event, seems like he would have just said, “Since YOU are surrounded...throw off everything that hinders YOU...and fix YOUR eyes on Jesus...” There is power in “us” when we run the race Jesus has set before us.
How strong is your running community? As you think about running your race, I think it’s a great idea for you to have a coach (someone helping you) and a student (someone you can help). And As you strengthen your running community, I think you’ll find your race a whole lot easier to run.
8 down, 32 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!