It’s been less than one year since Jonathan walked out of his final chemo infusion—nauseated, weak and swollen from steroids. Today he’s a marathon finisher. His feat is nothing short of incredible, and I consider witnessing his journey to be one of the greatest blessings in my life so far.
Our weekend in San Luis Obispo was a sweet time for us as a little family. While traveling with a toddler is by no means easy, it’s really wonderful to occasionally have time away together. It’s fun to cuddle in hotel beds, and explore new cities. It’s a treat to throw healthy eating out the window for a few days and let Anna eat French fries every two hours. We counter all the backseat diaper changes and short naps with memories made dancing together in the car, petting doggies, and swimming in the pool.
You might find it strange that despite my love for running, I’ve purposely avoided the marathon scene both as a participant and a spectator. I was afraid that watching a 26.2 mile race might confirm what my mind and heart already knew—it’s an insanely difficult athletic competition. Even though I’m not the one who gets to claim the title of marathon finisher, just watching Sunday’s race gave me an emotional high. (I’ll be honest—chasing him around the course was, at 6.5 months pregnant, also physically exhausting. Where’s my medal?)
One of my favorite moments from this last weekend was early Sunday when I woke Anna at 6:00am to “go find Daddy!” I expected her to be in a terrible mood from rising so early, but we whispered and giggled in our dim hotel room while I got her dressed. Together we tiptoed past all the Team in Training rooms which, like ours, were decorated with streamers and signs for the day’s race. The runners had boarded buses at 4:00am, but their excitement seemed to still linger in the hotel’s halls. The courtyard twinkle lights made the quiet morning feel special and celebratory, which it was.
Anna and I first picked up our friend Anna B, whose husband Brett ran the race with Jonathan. Together we all drove to Mile 6 as the sun rose. My stomach was fluttery with anticipation, and it stayed that way all morning.
For a few hours we chased the boys around San Luis Obispo; pulling over on dirt roads with beautiful farmland views. We’d get out Anna’s stroller and our posters, power walk towards the course, then strain our necks and jump around until we saw the guys’ familiar bodies in the distance. As the morning went by their once energetic faces started to look more and more strained, and with that, I began to grow worried. What if he doesn’t finish?
But during those last six miles I think I figured out why so many people love the marathon experience, and it has little to do with running. Properly preparing for this race is, of course, vitally important. (I watched Jonathan train for FOUR months to get ready. The bruises and blisters are no joke!) But, nothing can prepare a runner for the last 10K. That’s where family, friends and strangers come to the rescue.
When Jonathan made his way down the straightaway towards the finish line, I thought about how many people helped bring him through the day’s race.
I thought about Brett’s willingness to train every Saturday with Jonathan and for all the people who helped him donate over $3,500 dollars for cancer research.
I thought about Janice and Steve’s hospitality on Friday night and how they poured encouragement on our family throughout the weekend.
I thought about the Team in Training employees—mentors, coaches and strangers—who scream louder than any other spectators along the course.
I thought about how Jeremiah drove up to SLO for the weekend to act as coach; offering to babysit Anna so I could watch, or run with Jonathan. (He ended up running a lot of the race with Jonathan, and took the above finish line photo.)
I thought about all the people who texted on Saturday and Sunday requesting race updates and offering words of encouragement.
I also thought about our army, those present and those far away, who brought us through last year. I thought about the meals made, the hours of babysitting, the people who cleaned our house, the gift cards in our mailbox.
And when I watched Jonathan cross the finish line, limping and tired, I thought about him on his last day of chemotherapy. There were signs and banners that day too, cheering for a body broken not by choice but by circumstance. He’s come so far.
In the months and weeks leading up to Sunday’s race, I’d often grow teary just thinking about this finish line. I thought the moment would feel so symbolic I might sob. But as Jonathan ran down that last straightaway, I felt nothing but sweet, joyful, grateful, relief.
I am relieved God has the ability to heal, and I’m astonished at how far the human body can come in just 12 months.
I am relieved by how God offers love and provision through his people.
And, I am relieved that God offers incredible hope for Jonathan’s future, and encouragement to us as believers as we run the race marked out for us.