A few years ago I witnessed the New York City marathon. I heard there were fifty-one thousand participants this year and am sure nearly half of New York was out cheering them as they ran. There was a loud shout as the first runners came into view. The crowd went into an ecstasy of clapping, cheering and fist pumping, cheering them to their glory, as music from various music systems filled the air. But not for a moment did I see even one of them even look at us.
Their faces were intent, bodies resolute, eyes fixed. They had only one purpose, to win. I doubt they heard the crowd. I’m sure they saw no one except their goal. I saw muscles straining, but did not see tiredness or fatigue. By the time they had reached my spot they had already run twenty miles. They had another six miles left, and no shouts, or applause clouded their hearing except the sound of exultation as they crossed the finishing line. Lelisa Desisa, clocked 2 hours 5 minutes and 59 seconds, as he came first.
Nearly an hour later, even more, came hundreds of others. But there was a difference. I saw the same straining muscles, the same resoluteness, but I also saw them acknowledging us, smiling as they heard someone shouting their name, waving as they heard the cheering of bystanders urging them on.
Every cheer that went up, helped them in the next stride and the next and the next. These were not the professionals I’d seen an hour or more back, these were those who wanted more than anything else to complete those twenty six miles and go home to friends and family and shout, “I completed the marathon!” I’ve been told that the feeling of triumph one gets after finishing such a grueling race is more than the victorious feeling after most other achievements.
But, more than the professional runners and others who followed, what moved me most was the cheering crowd. I’ve taken pictures of smiles bursting on the faces of the weary, grins spreading and a new determination forming as crowds clapped, cheered and egged on the stragglers, the old, the tired, the weak and the disabled! What a spirit of encouragement! What a surge of energy transferred from an applauding crowd to a fatigued participant! What a lesson to learn.
You and I are often chosen to clap and cheer! We may not always be Lelisa, in the forefront, or the one running. We may be ones chosen to cheer and clap, ones who’ve been blessed with the spirit of encouragement to help thousands or may be even one person struggling to reach their goal. Today, look around for that struggling friend, despondent relative, then let your roar of encouragement give a lightness to their feet as they run and win this marathon, called life..!
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