Nine years ago Dr. Pace mentioned in a sermon that two long-time St. Luke’s members, Bob Eury and Jack Browder, had run over 30 consecutive Houston marathons. (Jack holds the record for the most consecutive marathons run under 4 hours). At the time I remember thinking that running 26 miles was sheer insanity. I often told people that the only time I would run was if somebody was chasing me.

However, inspired by those two men and many other runners, I decided to give running a try. I tried a half-mile at first, then built up to three miles and then six miles. I discovered an innate joy in running. There’s a joy in being alive. There is a joy in feeling one’s breath energize you as you move and when it goes well there’s a feeling of almost being lighter than air. There is a joy in accomplishing small goals and stringing them together as you achieve things that once you believed were out of your reach.

There are many wonderful things about the Houston marathon. However, what I love most about this race is the unbelievable support that Houston gives to the runners. Thousands and thousands of people line the streets cheering on the runners, giving high fives, and holding up humorous signs. That encouragement has the effect of lifting the runner along the course. Over the years, I have needed all of that encouragement to finish.

Ultimately, it’s a beautiful picture of the body of Christ. It reminds me often of Hebrews 12:1. “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.” The same is true in my faith journey. My relationship with Christ has been marked by a “great cloud of witnesses” that have inspired me to run toward Jesus.

And I also know to be joyful-… maybe not in the middle of the summer during a long run, but just to be alive. Joyful to be healthy. Joyful for all the incredible love and encouragement that surrounds me, not just during this race, but all year long from my own family and my St. Luke’s  family.

I’ll never forget finishing my first marathon. That particular race was grueling. It was a warm day and I think I hit the proverbial “wall” a little over halfway through the race. But I remember looking up and seeing Jack Browder cheering me on. Today I am running my 7th consecutive marathon. I may never be as fast as Jack Browder, but I am encouraged by him and all my other brothers and sisters in Christ.