Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Patiently Pulling to a Runner’s High

by: Topher Wiles
G&E enjoy my race swag after the
St. Jude's Marathon in 2014.
     Sweat was dripping everywhere from my aching body as my legs screamed at me.  Then, the cheering erupted.  High fives and hugs dominated the moment as the gracious volunteer hung the heavy metal around my neck and wrapped me in a “space blanket” on that cold December day.  My feet felt like weighty concrete but my heart was as light as a feather.
     Perhaps it was the five caffeine laced gelpacks I consumed in my four hour 26.2 mile marathon run that kept my heart racing.  Maybe my heart was light because, unlike the first unfortunate marathoner who died after his run, I knew had successfully survived the brutal assault on mind and body.  It’s possible that the light feeling was the result of the St. Jude’s cancer patients and survivors showing signs in the last mileage that read, “You’re doing this race for me!”   Yet, I believe the biggest motivator was the accolades and praises of my training coach that made my runner’s high continue from the Memphis St. Jude’s Marathon all the way home. 
     After multiple races totaling hundreds of miles since 2014, I’ve only been able to duplicate that feeling one time, and it was last weekend.  Sure, Tough Mudders were a blast, half-marathons were fun, and sprinting 5k’s to a gold medal win was exciting, but they weren’t the same as that Marathon with Don.  My friend Don was at least 10 years my senior and has run in the Boston marathon, which means he is a high level runner.  His wife was also a cross country coach while he raised four cross country running kids.  This guy knew how to train me to run a marathon.   Back in the day when I would proclaim, “I’m not a runner and I don’t like to run,” Don took me under his wing and educated me on all things running.  I still don’t like to run, but I’m a proud runner today because Don’s patient training pulled me along to the prize.
Indy Half Marathon with Don
 and Chipper in 2016.
     Don’s secret training methods weren’t about buying Eliud Kipchoge’s record breaking shoes or the latest breakout training routine.  Don simply pulled me along and encouraged me every step of the way.  For months he texted me frequently to coordinate running schedules together.  He helped me rehab through injuries and gently corrected my form offering little tips along our journey together.  During the long runs, when Don could tell my body was starting to give up, my training partner would always run two steps ahead of me, shielding me from the headwind, pacing me with his time, and constantly encouraging me with his words.  Even during the race, Don would pull just a couple steps ahead of me, challenging me to quicken my pace all until the last half mile, when he shifted behind me encouraging me to take the lead and the photo finish glory in the home stretch.   I was ecstatic crossing the finish line because I had reached not only my goals but I made my training coach proud. 
     This last weekend, I was able to duplicate that lighthearted feeling that lasted all day and well into the week, except this time, it was me who crossed the finish line two steps behind a runner.  My friend John had never run more than a 5k before I convinced him to attempt the Cookeville Haunted Half Marathon.  He was so worried about being able to survive his 3 hour run that he made sure his life insurance policy was up to date.  Like me, John professed, “I’m not a runner and I don’t like to run.”  Still, every week I checked on John and his progress while sharing little tips that I have learned in my years of running.  When we ran together, John was silently conserving every breath for his lungs and legs while I chattered away about life, running, and God to keep his mind from focusing on his aching feet. 
I finished two steps behind John
but still on a runner's high!
Cookeville Haunted Half Oct 2019
    On race day last weekend, John was visibly nervous about his first ever 13.1 mile run, but our prayer together at the starting line lowered his heart rate and helped set the stage for one of his biggest achievements in pursuit of his health.  Like my training partner had done for me years ago, I stayed two steps ahead for the first 12.5 miles.  Then, as we crossed the finish line, my smile lengthened and my heart skipped a beat as I watched John two steps ahead of me, accept the cheers, hugs, and high fives of family and friends.  My achievement in the Cookeville Haunted Half was not a personal record (I finished last in my age division) but that I finally duplicated that amazing runner’s high of 2014.  This time however, I wasn’t the one who crossed the finish line first.  Thanks Don, for showing me how to coach.

     Friends, we may not all be called to run the road, but we are called in this life to be like Don, patiently pulling other people to the prize.  You may be called to focus on your family as you help a child set and reach their goals in family, education, or their career.   Your calling may be toward a young person at church as you pull, train, and cheer them to reaching spiritual milestones.   A struggling family in the community may be your aim as you patiently guide them through the trials of life.  Whoever it is, remember that reaching those same milestones you’ve already eclipsed takes patient time in training, helpful and positive tips from your experience, and a lot of encouragement along the way.  There are few greater joys than helping others succeed. 
Now, who are you going to patiently pull to the prize?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1
     The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,