More than 40,000 participants will race, run, jog, walk, roll, stroll, or crawl past Richmond’s First Baptist Church today and I will be one of them (I told someone yesterday that if we could just get a few thousand of them to come back on Sunday morning it would be perfect, but I’m not sure we can convince them that worship qualifies as an “after-party”).
This will be my fifth year to run the 10K. I missed it when I came to Richmond in May, 2008, but I’ve signed up every year since. I wanted to set a good example for the staff and for the church, but I also did it just because I love to run, and the Monument Avenue 10K is one of the most lovable runs in the country. I’ve described it as “a 6.2 mile block party,” which is not far from the truth. Live bands are playing along the course, everyone on Monument Avenue seems to be hosting parties on their front porches or out on the median strip, high school cheerleaders are shaking their pom-poms on the sidelines, and some runners are dressed up in crazy costumes. Only the first few thousand runners have that look of grim determination on their faces, as if they were out to win the race; the others are mostly just trying to finish, or to have some fun along the way.
I find myself in that latter category today. I’m not trying to win. I’m not trying to set a personal best. I’m just going to immerse myself in the fun and flow of the crowd and see where I end up at the finish line. I’m going to see if there is any part of today’s event that makes me believe the Kingdom of Heaven has come near to Richmond, Virginia.
I won’t be surprised if there is.
I already know that one of our members, Cheryl, is planning to do the entire 6.2 miles on her walker. I know that somebody in the church sponsored Cheryl because she was having trouble coming up with the entry fee.
I know that Stephanie, who is completely blind, will walk the course holding on to the elbow of one of our members who agreed to do it with her just so she could participate.
I know that someone in our church who knows sign language came to our pre-race dinner at Robin Inn last night with Ron, who is extremely hard of hearing, just so he could join in the fun.
I know that some of our members will be on the sidelines today shouting encouragement to people they don’t even know, just because people need encouragement, especially when they’re doing something hard.
I think there’s a very good chance that heaven will come to earth for somebody in Richmond, today, and I don’t want to miss it. So, I’m going to go lace up my running shoes, pin on my number, and get lost in the crowd.
Hope to see you out there.