What Happens When God Shows up to a Half Marathon Race

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4 : 9, 10

Rest assured, you will read this post from start to finish in one setting.  I, on the other hand will be stopping several times during it’s completion as I recall the events and cry.  May I be the first to say God is so good.  He cares SOOOooo much for you and hears even your unspoken cries for help.  He loves you so much that he makes a way for your needs to be met.  He will also knock you down a peg or two if your chest is puffed too far out.  He is the Great I Am that we sang about this morning in service.  There is nobody above him, nobody beside him.  He is the Great I Am…and I am amazed that he even cares that I exist.

If you haven’t read my other two posts about my experience at the Women’s Half Marathon in Nashville this weekend, please go back and read those first.  You will probably understand this post much better if you do.  I first shared about the night leading up to the race and the race itself.   I will wait while you do that.  🙂

Ok now that we are all on the same page, we will start where the race post left off.

Liz, Jennifer and I after we all finished our race.  Be thankful you can't smell us through your computer screen!

Liz, Jennifer and I after we all finished our race. Be thankful you can’t smell us through your computer screen!

After all of our team members came across the line, we made our way to the gear check to claim Liz’s bag, hit the restrooms and walk around in the courtyard for a bit.  They had several things for participants and spectators alike to do.  We were able to enjoy cookies, bubbly should we choose, bananas, apples, some sort of applesauce stuff, we could have our metals engraved, there was a live band, massage therapist, a company giving out stretching bands…I don’t even remember everything.  The girls (Liz and Jennifer) and I decided we were tired, hot and ready to go home.  We were basically on a mission to find the pedestrian bridge that would take us back over to LP Field where we parked that morning from downtown where the race took place.  If you were in the car Friday night as we were trying to find 14th street, you’d know that we are…shall we say, directionally impaired?  Stop being nice…we are horribly deficient in this area.

We walked for what seemed like forever and then broke down to ask an officer for directions.   He told us to go down a few blocks, hang a right and it’d be right there.  We followed his directions and went to cross the last street we needed to before hanging a right and I almost stepped out in front of a participant who was still going.  Ooops.  I said I was sorry and stepped back onto the curb where we decided to hang out and cheer on the few groups who were visibly close.  After the four or so small groups passed we decided we had had all the fun we could handle so we proceeded to cross the street, minds set on heading to the cars.  We chatted a bit, commented about how this race was compared to Rock N Roll but really we were just wiped out and just wanted to sit in our vehicles and begin our quest for all things home.

And then it hit me.  I just got a sinking feeling and I swear there was what felt like a rope tied around my waist keeping me from going on any further.  I just felt like we had to go back to that street to do some more cheering.  And then I realized, not it’s not cheering, we had God appointments.  I stopped mid-stride and and with tears and strong emotion in my voice I said,” How cool would it be to join the very last participant and walk them in to the finish line?”  After all, that corner that we had just crossed at marked 2 blocks from the finish.  All you had to do was go down one more block, turn the corner and the finish line was literally a block away.    We figured sure what’s 2 blocks.  With that we turned our sweaty, stinky, sore bodies around.  At that crossroads, there was an officer posted to make sure nobody tried to drive through the race, even though it was coned off.  I spoke to him and asked if there was a SAG car or anything to mark who the last participant was so we’d have a little bit of an idea.  He said he didn’t think so but that the Women’s Running organization had a city permit until 12:00 so the roads would be blocked until then.  At that time it was 10 minutes to 11.  I told the girls and to be honest I wanted to turn around right then and there and go ahead and go home for a split second.  That nagging feeling in the pit of my heart quickly changed my mind.  We took our places back across the street where I had almost ran into the participant moments later.

Remember those cones I told you about a second ago?  Not more than 30 seconds after we go into place, an older man came barreling through those cones, turned the corner and was headed right down the street where the walkers were coming!!  The officer blew his whistle and ran after the car, slapping on the trunk as soon as he could to stop the man.  He bent down and talked to him a second and then directed him to back up and get on the opposite side of the street, behind the cones, from where he had come from.  Everyone around the area was stunned.  I’m pretty sure everyone was holding their breath and watching wide-eyed at what was going to happen.  Soon enough the officer directed the man in a safe direction to leave.

The girls and I discussed the situation briefly and then decided that 12:00 was a really long time to wait and that maybe we would “just know” who God wanted us to help.  Maybe we would get that feeling as they approached us.  It probably wasn’t two minutes and one group of women past that Jennifer said, “Oh Andrea, what about that one in blue?”  I looked and watched for a second but just really didn’t feel much.  Jennifer asked Liz, too I think as she passed us but I’m not sure.  She mentioned again that she thought maybe the one in blue was who we needed to help.  We decided that maybe we all just needed to go with whom we felt drawn to and with that Jennifer took off down the street toward the woman in blue.  I didn’t find out until later about the woman she joined but I will go ahead and tell you the story about her:

Jennifer approached the woman on her right and said,”I know you don’t know me, but would you like some company?”  The woman agreed.  They exchanged small talk and then Jennifer asked her what her name was and what made her want to do this race.  Her name, she found out, was Chris.  This was her second half marathon, the first one being the Women’s Half Marathon, 2012.  She struggled with weighloss most of her life.  She had tried zumba, kick boxing and a variety of other things but the fact of the matter was, she hated exercise.  She never stuck with anything.  Sometime last year she started to walk/run and decided she liked that because she could see when she improved.  Last year, she was the very last participant to cross the finish line.  At mile three, she was picked up by the SAG car and taken ahead.  See a SAG car is there to pick up those who are going slower than the pace required to finish in the time allowed.  It’s put in place to make the organization’s insurance provider happy and also to make sure everyone stays safe during the race.  She said this year, she made it to mile 7 without having to get picked up!  She had GREATLY improved since last year!  She was very proud of that and was determined to make it to the finish line.  Jennifer stayed with her until right before the finish line.  At that time she took her place on the outside of the finish line chute and cheered her on.  When she saw her finish, she turned around to come back to us, not knowing that we had just picked up another woman to bring in.

After Chris passed us and Jennifer met joined her last block and half, it was maybe two minutes later when we spotted two security people on bikes moving very slowly.  Soon after we witnessed an officer on a segway join the bikers.  Liz mentioned that she thought that might be them bringing up the end.  Honestly I was a little disappointed because I felt like maybe we SHOULD have gone with Jennifer, maybe that WAS who we were supposed to help and I just missed the boat on God’s calling.  About that time, we see a woman crouched over trying to make her way to the curb to sit down, obviously in running gear so it wasn’t a spectator.  We both looked at each other and just KNEW that was our girl.

We gathered everything we had and RAN up the street (up hill…and yes ran) to her.  As we approached she was getting up.  We could tell that she was in a BUNCH of pain.  It was written all over her face.  She was bent forward and to the right, barely able to take the next step.  She clutched to her hydration belt in the front as if it were a life preserver.  We began to talk to her and before we knew it, we were approaching the intersection where we were standing.  I know she had made up her mind and registered for this race at least a month and a half ago because her name was printed on her race bib.  Liz called her by name but apparently didn’t read it correctly because the woman corrected her by saying, “Samantha!”  Liz apologized and I said, “Hi Samantha!  You’re almost there!  You can do it, not too much further!”

She responded,” People have been telling me that for the last couple miles and I’m still not done!”

I quickly replied while standing slightly in front of her showing her my metal,”Yes but we have finished, we have been there already and we KNOW that it’s only two more blocks.  Just two more blocks you can do this!  All we have to do is get to the end of the street, turn the corner and you will be able to see the finish line banner.  You’re almost there! I promise!”

Each time she spoke you could hear the exhaustion, despair and pain in her voice.  One of us asked if there was anything we could do to help her finish and she handed me her phone and asked if I could hold it.  Of course I accepted and encouraged her further.  If you did in fact read my race story, you know that it helped me to be distracted from the race…to put my focus elsewhere.  Liz and I continued to throw out bits of encouragement and tell her how proud of her we were.  That there was only a little bit further to go.

At one point I told her that she only had a little over a block to go to which she said with much frustration,”You told me that five blocks ago!”

I said,”No ma’am we’ve only been with you for about a block.  I said you have two blocks to go at that time and we’ve come about a block.  You are almost there, I promise!  We are going to stay with you the rest of the way, we aren’t going to leave you.  You are going to do this!”

The whole time, Liz is on the other side of her, encouraging her as well. It was about that time I asked her who was waiting at the finish line for her.  I figured that would be something I could bring to her mind to encourage her to keep going.  Her answer nearly stopped me in my tracks.  She said nobody was there because her husband was mad at her for doing the race in the first place because he didnt feel she was ready for it.  He had taken their son to his ball game that had started at 10 that morning. Unfortunately that left her there alone. I have been there. At the Rock N Roll 1/2 my youngest was sick so nobody was there. This time my husband had to work so the kids were with their grandma.

In the block from the intersection where we had been standing to cheer folks on to the corner where we would turn to hit the finish line,  all we knew about her was her name, and now that nobody was there waiting for her at the end.  Samantha stopped two times to sit on the curb during this time as well, just like we had when we saw her with the bikers and Segway.  She never stayed more than a few moments and then got right back up for another burst toward the finish line.  The first time she stopped, the Segway officer rolled up to check on her.  I told him she was fine and that we were going to see her to the finish line.  He said he knew that he had followed with her for a while.  He also said that she made him promise that she would go to the medical tent as soon as she finished.  He asked us to make sure she went since we’d be there to help.  She kept saying as long as they have ice she’d go.  That and cold water.

She also voiced her concern that she wouldn’t get a metal because it was after the posted cut off time.  I looked at her and told her with all certainty that she would be getting a metal.  I had made up my mind that come hell or high water, she was getting a metal, even if it was the one that was hanging on my neck.  Out of anyone at the race, she deserved it more than anyone else.  I told her I PROMISED she would get one, no questions asked!  She said under her breathe a quick and relieved, “Good.”

One of us asked her at the second stop if this was her first half marathon.  She said that, no, this was actually her 4th, but first one this year.  She told us she had had a stroke in February and then back surgery sometime after that.  She told us she had a six year old son, too.  Due to a blood clotting disorder, she wasn’t able to be on birth control and as a result, had her son at 40 years old.  I’m standing there in complete disbelief of everything she’s telling me!  She also mentioned that her health problems in the last year contributed to her husband’s anger regarding this event.  He didn’t feel like it was safe or smart for her to take it on. You could tell she had the determination of an army to cross that finish line.  I believe she had to prove it to herself that she could do it and that her health simply wasn’t going to keep her from doing it.

Before she stood up she said,” I need to prepare myself, are there anymore hills when we turn the corner.  Are there any hills between here and the finish line?”  As much as I wished that I could tell her no, Liz responded and said, “Yes there is a slight hill but then you go right down on a slight downhill.”  I said, “As soon as you turn this corner you are going to hear music and see a yellow banner.  That banner is the finish line.  You are so close and you are totally going to do it!”

With that she made her way to her feet and we turned the corner.  I asked her if she could see the banner and she said no that she couldn’t see it.  I’m guessing since she was so bent over and to the side that she probably couldn’t see it.  I swear to you, watching her take this hill with everything she had left and then some…watching the determination to make it to that finish line.  I was completely speechless on the inside…completely humbled by what I was experiencing.  It was almost an out-of-body, 3rd person experience. On the outside I was yelling and screaming any and every bit of encouragement I could thing of.  I wanted more than anything in the world to see her succeed, to meet her goal.  I wanted more than anything to witness the miracle that God was going to do in this woman’s life.  I wanted to see the word come to live…Christ says that we can do ALL things through him because HE strengthens us.  He says that he will never leave us or forsake us.  He says that when we ask for help he will respond with assistance because we are his children.  He also tells us that those who are persistent in our requests, he will look upon them.  Looking back I now realize that all of my shouts of encouragement were prayers, asking God to see her through to the end, to carry her to the finish so that she could claim the prize.  She had run the good race and deserved the prize for sure!

Sometime between the top of the small hill and the finish line, Jennifer met us.  All three of us (Jennifer, Liz and I) began to jump up and down, wave our hands like crazy, scream and shout at the top of our lungs to draw attention to Samantha as she conquered and broke through the barriers that threatened to keep her from finishing.  I kept telling her she was MORE than an overcomer.  The announcer who stood in the finishing chute took note and began to encourage her and cheer for her as well.  Not only did she but we were able to pump up the crowd standing on the outside of the finishing gate.  It sounded like a professional sporting event, or a concert or something of that magnitude!  We had to take the outside of the chute as we learned Jennifer had done before.   There was a place where we couldn’t go any further so at that time I turned my attention to alerting someone to get her into the medic tent.

I don’t know if someone had radioed ahead or if they heard me but they had wheelchair to her very quickly.  It wasn’t until then that I realized I still had her cell phone in my hand from when we met her.  One of the organizers allowed me to go through the gate to get to her.  The medic helping her was holding her metal at the time.  I came up to her left side and said,”Hey Samantha, I have your phone.  I am so proud of you!  You did it!  I knew you could!  You did it!”  She was holding a bag to get sick in otherwise I probably would have hugged her until she fell out of the wheelchair.  I am not sure I have ever been so excited and proud for someone else’s accomplishment in all of my 30 (almost 31) years.  I asked the medic if I could please have her metal to place around her neck.  He nodded yes and handed it to me.  I bent down in front of her and asked if I could put it around her neck and she agreed, moving the vomit bag long enough to put it on.  I knelt down real quick and said, “Look at my eyes.”  It took her a second to do so but when she did I said,” I want you to know that I am REALLY REALLY proud of you!”  She nodded, said thank you and mentioned she appreciated it because nobody had been proud of her doing this race.

At that they wheeled her into the medical tent.  I exited the finishing chute and went to go find Liz and Jennifer.  I don’t even remember how I found them but we just sort of stood there in shock at what we had just experienced.  About then, we saw a stretcher coming past us toward the medical tent.  Liz vocalized she thought it was probably for her.  I suggested we pray for her health and her in general.  We did, through sobbing tears.  We thanked God for her and her life.  We asked him to heal her body and be with her when she was reunited with her family.  We prayed that she would make a full recovery and thanked him for bringing her and Chris into our lives.  We thanked him for the fact that all 5 of us were even able to walk let alone complete a half marathon.  We said amen and wiped our eyes.  By the way, if you have been sweating, don’t use your arm to wipe your eyes.  Salt in the eyes tends to BURN like the dickens.

As we decided there was nothing more we could do for her, Liz felt lead to try to go in to the tent to let her know that we had prayed for her and would continue to pray for her.  About that time Samantha began to cry and held up her metal.  She told Liz thank you and told her that tonight she was going to sleep with her metal.    A few moments later Liz came out of the tent blubbering…tears running down her face.  She filled us in on what had happened in the tent.

We all bawled our eyes out and began to walk toward the pedestrian bridge.  For what seemed like forever nobody said anything but continued to weep at what God allowed us to witness through Samantha.  At one point I said it made me want to go back and encourage someone else to finish but then we saw they were taking down the finishing chute and the announcer was signing off.

I don’t know why God chose us to fill the need of encouragement for Samantha but I’m glad he did.  I didn’t until that moment understand why I had been blessed so greatly by sponsorships by people who sacrificially gave so I could pay for my registration.  Thank you, each of you for making it possible for me to be there to encourage her.  I didn’t understand why I was running a race I was grossly unprepared for.  I know now that I wasn’t supposed to be there for me to run but I was there to run the race just like I did so I would finish like I did so I could be at the right place at the right time to meet my God appointment.  For a couple weeks I haven’t understood why our lodging arrangements worked out the way they did.  It’s obvious now that Chris needed Jennifer to be walking that direction (toward LP Field) so that she would be there to meet her in the time of need.  I know now that Liz was supposed to stay with me because of the same reason, only for Samantha.  I couldn’t have met her need like the two of us could.  I didn’t understand until then fully what the bible meant when it says that HIS strength will be made perfect in our weakness.  OH my WORD I saw that first hand.  He carried her through…every single step, strengthened by Christ.

You know what I went to bed last night thanking God for the experience.  I asked him out of curiosity why we hadn’t been put in a place where we could swap contact information so we could follow up on her at a later time.  Make sure everything went ok.  I really didn’t feel like I got an answer but then I realized, OH! The official standings!  We could look there when they were posted, find the “Samantha” that finished toward the end and do a backward search for her…look for her name in google or whatever because then we would have her last name.

Liz and I shared similar thoughts with Joyce this morning at church.  Just an hour or so later, Liz got a call from Joyce.  I didn’t know that until Liz called me.  At first I missed her call because I was setting the table of spaghetti and salad for my family and my husband’s grandparents.  I called back right away and asked if i could call her back after lunch.  She assured me I wanted to hear what she had to say.

She proceeded to tell me that Joyce looked up the standings and in fact found Samantha on Facebook.  I was over the moon happy to hear that.  But then Liz got choked up and began to read the post Samantha had made 19 hours before that time which read:

“At home now. I had horrible back pain at mile 8. I had to stop about every block to sit because I was bent sideways and felt like I was going to faint. I received 3 iv bags, anti nausea medicine thru iv and ended up having an asthma attack at hospital. I wish I knew the names of the 3 ladies who got me over the finish line. They prayed and held all my gear. They cheered so loud the while crowd joined in and it brought tears to my eyes how a stranger can change your life.”

As she is reading, I am sobbing to the point I can’t even stand on my own two feet.  It is so humbling to know that God has used you in such a powerful way in someone’s life.  It’s humbling to know that you heard God correctly and that you were obedient.  After we left the race grounds yesterday I haven’t been able to contain my emotions.  I have been a leaky faucet of emotions.  If anyone thought I was bad yesterday…I am 10 times worse today.

My prayer is this: That I am never desensitized to this God event.  I pray I am always brought to tears when I remember how God used me.  I pray that whenever I hear the name “Samantha” that I stop and pray for her.  I pray that anytime any of my readers hear that small voice or feels that tug in your soul to do something…ACT!  I am completely humbled and blessed at what God has done in my life and the miracle he allowed me to witness yesterday.  I pray that each time I go to a race, I don’t leave without God using me in some way to encourage someone.  Please pray for Samantha.  Pray that God gives her a chance to share what He did for her in a way that brings glory to Him.

I can say that without a doubt, I will remember this race, September 28th, 2013, as the day God changed my life forever.  He humbled and encouraged me all at the same time.  I stand amazed at my God.  He truly is the Great I Am.  He truly does give us each other to help each other when they are low.  Glory to Him who is WORTHY to be praised!

Cheers,
Andrea

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10 thoughts on “What Happens When God Shows up to a Half Marathon Race

  1. Pingback: Women’s Half Marathon Nashville, in Retrospect | Seriously Outnumbered

  2. I’m Samantha’s oldest daughter, who lives in Florida. I cannot thank you enough for being there for and protecting my mom. You are truly angels. God Bless!

  3. God bless you Samantha, for finding the courage and determination to tackle this challange and God bless the three Angles God sent to help you finish this!

  4. To the three Angels God sent my sister to help her complete her journey, God Bless you all from the bottom of my heart. To my sister I am so very proud and humbled by the Courage, Determination and Grace you showed each and everyone of us. i Love You So Very Deeply Lil Sis, Dootsie

  5. It’s so nice seeing the comments that Samantha’s family left. Such a special day. I’ll always remember that half-marathon and Samantha.

    • Yes for sure! I have gone back several times to read and relive that day. It will go down as some of my all time cherished life events.

  6. Pingback: Why Do You Run? | Seriously Outnumbered

  7. Pingback: I Want You To Meet a Special Friend of Mine! | Seriously Outnumbered

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