As I got into a steady pace, I quickly realized how warm it had gotten. The good thing was that from the looks of it, most of the run was in a shady, wooded area. I was frustrated because I wasn’t able to get my GPS started for the bike in time, and as I started the run, I couldn’t figure out how to reset it again. I really wanted to know my time up to this point, but I just had no clue. I was feeling pretty strong, though, and was encouraged that I was able to actually pass some people (-the ones that were walking or limping ).
Soon enough, I saw the first water station and I got really excited. I ran close to the man who was holding out the little cup of water and grabbed the cup. I’m not sure if there is science to that too, but I ended up spilling over half of the water. I had a small sip left and I really wanted to go back for another full cup, but I decided to take my chances that I could make it to the next station.
After a mile or so, my legs were beginning to feel tired and my breathing was more labored. An image of my ice-cold Gatorade bottle kept coming to my mind. I just couldn’t let it go. I was sure someone else was enjoying it…probably right at that moment. I kept pushing forward. Then I remembered I had a Goo, that David had given me, in the little back pocket of my uniform. Tennille and I both weren’t sure if we wanted to eat one, but we took it with us just in case. Hoping it would give me an energy boost, I reached back, under my t-shirt, and slipped it out. I ripped it open and squirted some into my incredibly dry mouth. Being so viscous and grainy, I was physically unable to swallow it. As I continued to try to maneuver the glob into my throat with my tongue, my eyes caught sight of another water station. There were three athletes right in front of me and we all made a bee line to get a much needed drink. The weather was officially hot. The first athlete grabbed a cup, then the second, and finally the third. By the time I got there, as if on cue, both of the volunteers were empty-handed and simultaneously left to go fill up more cups. I kept on running.
I thought I would throw-up from the Goo. It was still plastered in my mouth. I tried to take my mind off of the Goo by thinking about my running pace. I was trying to gauge how well I was doing by looking at everyone’s left calf (for their age) and guesstimating how much sooner or later they started from me. I pushed to pass up every girl I saw. But it was getting hard to keep up my pace. I was beginning to lose hope in making any of my goals. At last, I spotted another water station. I immediately squirted the rest of the goo into my mouth, hoping I’d be able to wash it down with the little cup of water. I slowed down and gently grabbed a cup. I tried to make sure I wouldn’t lose a drop and managed to pour it into my sticky Goo-filled mouth. I swished around a little and then swallowed. It totally worked! My mouth was empty and free! I decided it was time to give it everything I got. I reached the half-way point, turned around, and started the run back to the finish line.
During training, 5ks had eventually become fairly easy for me. But this by far was the longest 5k I had ever run. It was taking forever! We were no longer running in the shelter of the shade and the sun was blazing down on us. People were beginning to tank. I was so tempted to start walking. I started telling myself, “I can do this. I will do this.” I wasn’t exactly sure what “this” meant, but it sounded good. I would persevere. It was seriously depressing to see all of the athletes around me looking so exhausted.
Then, I heard someone call out my name. I looked up and there was Tennille with a huge smile on her face. I was seriously so excited to see her. She looked at her watch and yelled out, “We’re at 1:06! You can do it!!” We gave each other the hardest high-five that I have ever experienced as we literally ran passed each other in opposite directions. As my hand recovered from the sting, her words sank in. Only 1:06 had passed?! My personal goal was 1:20. I was a little more than half way done with the run. I could totally do it! Hope totally erupted from within me and I once again picked up my pace. I started to believe that just maybe I could get in the top 10 in my age category. I had arbitrarily set that as one of my sponsorship categories and it would bring in an additional $200 in donations from my sponsors. I had to try. I didn’t have much to lose. I was running for those kids. I wanted to make a difference. There was a slender, super-fit older man that passed me up and I determined that I would stick right behind him until the finish. He kept me at an uncomfortably difficult pace.
Finally, I began to hear the crowd cheering and I knew it was almost over. The professional photographer was stationed there and began shooting pictures of all the athletes as we passed by. I was now able to see the final left turn to the home stretch. Israel was there with the boys. Manu was waiting for me with his hand out for a high-five. I gave him a high-five and then as I passed, I saw that Micah had mustered up courage to put his hand out, but too late. He’ll have to wait for next time. I heard the announcer call out, “Now coming to the finish line, #364, JUDY RAMOS from CHASSELL, MICHIGAN!” They gave me my finisher’s medal and I went to find my family. I did it!
After sharing in our excitement together, Tennille and I decided to head over to check our times. We were so happy that we had both killed our personal goals! I even reached Chris’s overall time goal for me by 36 seconds. By the next day when the final rankings were posted, I miraculously held on to the #10 spot in my age group! Thanks to all of my donors and supporters, we were able to raise $910 for Love 146. Team Revolution has raised over $2,000 during the Tread on Trafficking campaign ranking 5th out of the over 100 teams! It was the perfect ending to an incredible race.
This whole experience has helped me realize how strong the human will is. It is a God-given power that is stronger than mere physical or mental capabilities. It is a force that dictates how we make every decision of our lives. As we exercise the will for the right, we develop a mental toughness, a stubbornness to principles, and an unwavering adherence to what we believe in. Isn’t that what we are constantly striving for? It isn’t surprising then, that the Bible likens the Christian experience as a race:
“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NLT)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” 2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT)
I always thought it was so cliche when athletes would win a game or match and then thank God for it. But I think I can genuinely say that God has taken the time to personally teach me in a tangible way. Success for the Christian requires a life-time of training, but with proper discipline and motivation, anything is possible. If we remain faithful, we will finish. There will be set-backs, but we learn from them and as long as we are moving forward, we are getting closer to the finish line. Friends are given to us as gifts to help us along the way. We must be focused on our ultimate Goal and have faith.
The best news of all? All of Heaven is rooting for us. Let’s win the race that really matters.
“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2 (NKJV)