Just this week I was sharing lunch with my nephew John who had just finished running the Cleveland Marathon, his first race ever. While he was not as fast as his younger brother Tucker was last year, I am so proud of them both for successfully completing this amazing feat. 

John didn’t train as much as many do but he was well prepared with good information to help him be successful.  John explained that he was doing great for the first 8 to 10 miles, ahead of his expected pace and feeling good. There is an out-and-back leg of race where you are traveling the same road for a long stretch and the race leaders sprinted past (going the other way). You can’t understand that feeling of going as hard as you can and seeing others breeze past unless you are in that race!

For John, having never run more than 13 miles at any one time, it was a complete unknown what would happen in the 2nd half of the race. John had many family and friends to cheer him on and that became really important once the miles stacked up. When his mind wanted him to slow down, his heart knew he couldn’t let his fans see him walking. The cheers and encouragement helped him endure through the pain, the doubt and misery. At mile 20 he could see downtown and the finish line.  His cheering section gave him one last burst of energy and while every muscle screamed for him to stop... he pushed through.

As I listened to his stories, I reflected on the marathon I had just finished. My marathon is the spring sales season in the greenhouses. In contrast to John, this was my 44th completed race, so I have a good deal of experience but still... there are always surprises waiting for you out on the course. My race begins in July with the planning of our production schedule. Through the summer, we prepare by ordering materials that we will need to be successful. During the winter, we clean and make repairs to our buildings and equipment and, in January, planting begins. 

Sales begin to kick off in April when the greatest amount of planting is also taking place and then it is a full-on battle to get through to the end of May. My entire team is taxed as the race goes on, making it more and more difficult to answer the call but we are cheered on by the reaction from customers who ooh and ahh over the vast display of flowers we have grown. We are buoyed by the appreciation of others giving us the needed energy to continue. 

Personally, I experienced a moment of clarity while assisting a young family in the store. Once we selected the items they needed, “Dad” told me that, as a child, he had come to our store with his family to shop for flowers.  WOW... I am doing more than selling flowers. What I do does mean something... it does make a difference.

At any given time, we are all engaged in some sort of marathon/s of our own, and as we go through it, we may find ourselves tracking faster than some and much slower than others.  Whether we’re in training, preparing for or in the midst of enduring... we all have our races to run.  We also share a responsibility to recognize the times when we should be cheering others on... urging them to carry on, to persist, to finish their race.  It isn’t necessary that we personally know those we are cheering for, only that we realize how, during the struggle, encouragement can be the difference between finishing and giving up. In many cases, by simply carrying a positive attitude and treating others with respect, we can often make a positive difference for others without even realizing what we have done. 

John’s race was well run, and I believe he will be running again sometime soon. I hope I can be a part of his cheering section, helping him to finish strong, but I will also be looking out for opportunities to encourage others who may be struggling just to stay in their own race. 

No go outside and have fun in the dirt!