Help in the Rough Places

26 06 2016

This last Saturday I competed in my 8th triathlon, a competition that combines swimming, biking and running; this year I was allowed to choose kayaking over swimming.  On Jeremy and Justin 2016 Triathlon_NEW-2occasion I’m asked why keep doing these races; being well past my prime there’s no chance of winning; so why continue the rigors that come from training for such events? True to a certain point, but I believe there are more benefits than negatives in continuing on. The first would be the physical fitness it takes to compete; the vast majority are younger but there’s a good amount who are in their 60s, 70s and even 80s that are in the mix showing no sign of slowing down. Then there are the inspirational athletes who choose not to compete for themselves; they team up with handicap individuals who can’t walk or don’t have the strength to participate on their own. These heroic volunteers then swim, pedal and push their less fortunate teammate through the course and across the finish line. If that doesn’t inspire you to keep coming back, I don’t what would.  But one of favorite characteristics of the triathlon is how people will encourage each other. Hearing words such as “You doing great!” Don’t quit, you’re almost there!” “You’re awesome, keep up the good work!” Several times when I wasn’t sure I’d make it someone would come along and shout out encouragement that would be just enough to give me energy to push on. One friend put it like this, “For the majority of us we’re not just out there for our own honor, we’re out there for each other.” As I look around at the people, I see that he is right. I could come up with numerous examples but I’ll just give two, one from the past and one from the latest race.

During a tri- up in Michigan I swam well that day, biked hard but when my feet hit the ground to run there was little left. Then Mario, a firefighter came up and ran with me saying, “Come one, we gotta show these young ones what a couple old guys can do.” With his talk and encouragement, the pace became easier, and when we drew within 50 yards from the finish we turned it on, sprinting for all we had, laughing and falling into each others arms as we crossed the line. I never saw Mario again but I turned in my best time ever for the triathlon, because of his help and inspiration.

This weekend I saw that type teamwork again with two dedicated athletes. The first pushed himself hard through the water and on the bike, but he was fading during the run. That is until the other caught up with him and yelled, “Come on, keep up!” That was enough to bring life back into the first runner where he found himself running faster and harder than he ever did before, all the way to the finish line.

The Bible teaches us the same thing, that we should look to be a help to others every chance we get,

Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Without a doubt one of the greatest joy I can experience is when I can be a help or encouragement to someone else. Undoubtedly there is something to gain for the individual in need; but there’s also a fulfillment that comes to the giver. Rick Warren puts it like this, “You cannot live a selfish and significant life—significance comes in serving others.”

I run triathlons for what it gives me–health, fitness, friendship, and joy in helping and being helped by others. If that’s not a good reason to keep coming back I don’t know what is.

As mentioned I never saw my friend Mario again, and as for the other two “Travelers of the Rock Road?” Well, they finished, side by side and hand in hand held high in the air crossing the finish line in victory for what they accomplished as a team. I don’t know a prouder moment I ever had of Jeremy and Justin, my two sons.

See ya next time.


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One response

30 06 2016
Beverly Crane

Ok, the last paragraph gave me tears and goosebumps. God has certainly blessed you and your family. John, you have done a great job of raising your children. How many fathers can say they competed in a race like that with their sons? Congratulations on another fine race and to all those who encourage each other to “keep going”!

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