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Thank God for Distance Runners

Posted Saturday, November 20, 2010 by Mike Hout
It is 3 in the morning and I can't sleep.  It's been a crazy day full of sitting in a room all alone writing thanksgiving sermons and standing in a crowded movie theater waiting to watch the new Harry Potter movie (for the record - it is the women in my life who are the pottermaniacs and I just go along to be with them).

It feels like I should write a little bit more along the lines of giving thanks.......and that is this: thank God for distance runners!

I never was a "true" distance runner.  There were times in my life when I put miles in and times when I ran with distance runners and times I ran distance races.  But all along, in my mind, I was never a "true" distance runner.  I was always a jumper/hurdler who would sometimes put on the clothes of a distance runner.  I learned this early in my life and this knowledge has served me well.  So, when I did some activities with real distance runners I could admire their ability and their work and their special gifts.

Not only did I learn early on to admire what distance runners could do, but I also found out early on that distance runners were my friends.  In junior high track, I did not have the speed to keep up with others on the team so I was lucky to discover the hurdles.  I learned that developing a better technique over the barriers was my way to keep up and sometimes beat people much more athletic than myself.  Because of this extra effort to constantly improve my hurdling ability, I always found myself at the track earlier and longer than others.  And guess who I often spent most of my time with.........distance runners!  They weren't afraid to work hard and often put in longer practices with me.  We may have been in different areas of the track but we would occasionally run by each other and give a nod or a word of support.  So from junior high to high school to college, that was 10 years of companionship with distance runners.  That was 10 years of words of support from distance runners.  That was 10 years of friendship with distance runners.

After I graduated from Capital University I took full time classes at seminary to become a pastor.  In my fourth year of work I found out that Capital didn't have a track coach so I applied and got the position.  The first thing I noticed was that they, somehow, had let the cross-country team die and I began to do all I could to get the team going again.  It was a thrill to finally get enough distance runners (or should I say friends) together to have a men's team and even get some women to participate.  These were the first female distance runners ever for Capital.  How great to be a part of that history!

I began to notice some more things about distance runners.  They were not only some of the hardest workers but they were also often some of the best students and often went on to become some of the most successful people in life.  For some strange reason, Capital University (at the time) could not see this and they did not support cross-country like they could have.  Now I look back and see great doctors, great business people, great teachers and great professionals that came from those squads.  Who wouldn't want more alumni like that?  The school has since started thinking a little differently partly because they now have a president who is......a distance runner!

So, in this season of thanksgiving I give thanks to God for distance runners.  You have been great friends.  You are an inspiration because of your work ethic.  You become great people in the work force.  That is why I like to hang out at cross-country practices.  That is why I like to go to cross-country meets.  That is why I get so excited when you run your best and set new personal records.

It's also nice to get some exercise, too.  And who better to move around with than inspiring distance runners.....my favorite athletes!  

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