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Gold medals on our Journey through Lent

2015-03-13 14:38

The London marathon can be an unforgettable spectacle. I will always remember being in the right place at the right time to watch the first two runners run past with their long, easy and beautiful stride.  Olympic contenders, their fluid and unstrained movements were unequalled that day: sheer poetry.  By comparison, the other runners were mere stragglers.

Several thousand took part in the marathon that day: men, women and youngsters of every age, shape and size. Along the entire 25-mile route, bystanders applauded each individual and group who passed by, some of them running, others walking and others in wheelchairs.

By the end of the day, many participants were a mass of aches and pains. Many could barely walk for tiredness. Sore and blistered feet objected to hitting the hard road yet one more time – even to travel home.  The police and stewards, obliged to wait for the very last person, also yearned for a seat and a long, cold drink.

Some runners, whilst taking the race seriously, were not averse to playing to the audience.  Do multicoloured balloons and other trimmings help or hinder? Many onlookers laughed as a man dropped down onto the road, pretending to crawl towards his toddler daughter.  Gurgling with delight, she did her best to drag her apparently exhausted father to his feet so that he could continue the race.

Yet, of all those who take part in the marathon, there are many whose courage and determination are special.  Amongst them are those who race in specially-constructed wheelchairs and have differing levels of disability.  They are the ones who, sometimes, bring tears to the eyes and a lump to the throat. However impressive the performance of the professional athletes, it is these people who receive the greatest and most sincere applause. Paraplegics are common.  It is a moving experience to see the speed with which they move whilst withered and useless legs are strapped down so that they don’t dangle onto the road.  Catheter bags bulge under trousers, practical symbols of the struggles that have been faced and overcome on a journey that has required unrelenting courage. Countless setbacks rewarded with tiny triumphs are often more important than any Olympic gold medal. 

We all run a race in our lifetime.  Some will receive public acclaim and honour, but sometimes the gold medal is invisible, conferred by God upon someone whose only success is to keep on going. Only God knows just how many gold medals accompany our journey through Lent.

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