Thursday, May 6, 2010


We're individualists. Almost to a person, we assume it is best to do things on our own. We celebrate the self-made man, talk of pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps and love watching the lone-wolf hero save the day against all odds.

We are so inundated and enamored with this ideal that we don't even realize it at times. We expect individuality and independence to such a degree that we assume anything else is an aberration.

The Flying Pig marathon this past weekend was in many ways a celebration of individual drive, individual effort and individual accomplishment. 18,500 runners set out to prove themselves. Each one on a personal mission to overcome a 26.2 mile obstacle. Except when they weren't alone.

Somewhere in the midst of the main throng of runners, something stood out. It had volunteers talking and radio operators alerting stations further down the course.

The scene could be interpreted in two completely different ways.

A senior gentleman was clearly struggling through the race. He was panting and wheezing, but this was common and didn't set him apart from so many other runners. What did set him apart was the fact that he couldn't stand upright. He was leaning... at something close to a 45 degree angle.

I'm no running expert, but I'm pretty sure that standing upright is crucial to proper running and plays a big part in endurance. Leaning hard to the right side is a recipe for a short run.

But this man was going strong at mile 21 because he wasn't running on his own. He had a partner. Next to the gaunt old man was a younger, thicker, muscular runner who was quite literally holding him up.

The senior man's right elbow was tucked in the crux of the younger man's left arm and they ran together.

When they approached our location, you couldn't miss them. The radio operator called to teh medical tent and the next station, letting them know that a runner was coming who would need their help. It was the obvious explanation. This man had bit off more than he could chew and was now struggling.

But, I don't think that was the correct interpretation. The younger man wasn't wearing a race number. He wasn't a runner that had stepped in to help a struggling stranger. But, he was clearly a runner. He was dressed for the event and knew what he was doing. He was not a spectator who stepped in either. The two men also didn't stop when they reached us. They didn't ask for help, signal a need or even slow down when they got to us.

This wasn't an emergency help situation. This was a team. A team that was determined to accomplish something that would be impossible alone.

There was no way the older man could run a marathon on his own. From the look of things, he couldn't even stand upright. But this impossibility became a 26.2 mile opportunity when he did one simple thing. He abandoned individuality and embraced community. If he did his part and depended on his partner to do his part, they could accomplish the impossible. I wasn't at the finish line, but something tells me this is exactly what they did.

How often do we judge something as impossible because of our individual limitations?
How much could be do if we embraced mission in community?
What would it take for you to step out of individuality?

No comments:

Post a Comment