The Rock and Roll Country Music Marathon was my first and last marathon. Nashville was an interesting choice…bands and cheerleaders every few miles…cool scenery…I can see why we thought that location had a decent draw. But seriously, who knew Nashville was SO darn hilly? I mean practically mountainous. She was my first and only. She ruined me for any and all marathons moving forward. For SO many reasons: One being I could watch 2 movies in the time that it took to run that beast. 2 movies or 15 episodes of Friends. Come on people…15 episodes. Not to mention marathon training is INTENSE and it is something I cannot give my life to. It is AMAZING and INSPIRING and I am in awe of those who run more than one 26.2 race. Give me some heavy ropes, a TRX, and kettle bell and we will do work. But spending HOURS and HOURS running to get to a total of 26.2–is a one and only for me. I had to put it bed. Forever.
There was a silver lining on that sunny (and did I mention–HOT) day in April: A memory that will forever stay etched on my heart. Someone brilliant told Chris and I to write our names on our t-shirts so that bystanders would yell our names as we passed. Genius. So of course I printed neatly, “Jenni” and Chris decided on the ever so appropriate, “Pork Chop.” Ugh. My 6’4 lean mean running machine was cheered for 26.2 by faithful, albeit confused folks yelling, “Go…Pork Chop?!?!?” Chris snickered and went on.
Me, I SOAKED IT IN. I can hear the voices as if I ran a few minutes ago:
“You can do it Jenni.”
“Keep it up Jenni!”
“Way to go Jenni–you’re beating Pork Chop!”
“Keep pushing Jenni!”
“Looking strong Jenni!”
Was I? Was I really looking strong? Cause I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t feel like keeping it up or pushing. I was TIRED. 26.2 is a LONG way. I had not been prepared for this. I wanted to give up. I wanted to walk. No, I wanted LAY DOWN. Goodness knows…it was just TOO much. Too many hills, too many darn hills. Ups and downs. So many ups and downs. Stop it already. Make it stop.
Just as my mind would begin to give in to my legs and every other human part screaming cuss words at me…this angelic voice would come from no where…”Don’t stop Jenni…you’ve got this.”
The past year and a half has felt very similar to my first (and only) marathon. So hard. So hilly. So many ups and downs. While visiting home I have been encouraged and told what an inspiration our story has been. They speak of it in a way that I speak of my marathon friends. (You know the ones who have run multiple marathons…like they did one and decided to do ANOTHER. And another.) Those people are straight up inspiring…disciplined and a tiny bit crazy. I speak of those runner friends with respect and awe. The friends who we have seen us, who have been following our journey speak to us in a similar fashion. Questioning very slowly, “Seriously, how did you do it?” Honestly, it doesn’t feel very heroic or disciplined or faithful. Many days it felt terrifying, exhausting, and a tiny bit crazy. I cannot tell you how we have fully run from point A to point B. We simply put one foot in front of the other and moved forward. That, and we listened to precious voices from the crowd (across the ocean) yelling,
“We are praying for you Cockerhams!”
“Hang in there…you are doing the right thing.”
“God woke me up in the night to pray for you and your family…many times.”
“Stay the course…God is near.”
The encouragement from bystanders was significant. Their prayers sustained us. Their voices, prayers and cheers though a bit faint…kept us going. They kept us from falling, collapsing and never getting back up.
If you have taken on (or been taken on) a faith journey that is wrecking you–you are not alone. If you are tired, feel like collapsing or giving up, you are in good company. If your day to day causes fear, anxiety or exhaustion…take heart. Be encouraged and listen. Listen for the voices. Are they muffled or faint? They are there. They are the voices of brothers and sisters who are standing alongside of you. Seen or unseen faces who want (and need) you and Pork Chop to finish. (Because if you finish they have hope they will finish too.) They are bringing the words you need at just the right moment. Urging you to finish. To not give up. Urging you…reminding you: it is not over. One foot in front of the other. Dig deep…listen…and allow their voices, prayers, and cheers to take you to the finish line.
Similar to the sea of faces and voices that we heard on that dreaded day at the Country Music Marathon; we know (but don’t fully know) of the faithful prayer warriors who have cheered us to where we are now. We cannot fully express the gratitude in our hearts. Your love, prayers and faithful cheers have carried us through this journey. You know who you are–even if we don’t. Grateful and celebrating you today.
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1-3 the message
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,