Second Place Is Fine

Rene PetersonRecently, I ran a 5K. Once again, I was aiming to complete the course in 23:30, but once again I ran out of gas along the way. When I realized that I could not reach my goal time, I eased up and did not even make a new PR. That was probably a poor choice.

Checking the official results later in the day, I realized that I had managed to come in second in my age group. Coming in 2nd among 33 runners, 80th of 933 overall, was some consolation. But still, I knew that I shouldn’t have eased up. Obviously the guy who won the age group, coming in at 19:18, didn’t ease up.

I determined to find something out about this guy, this Rene Peterson. He also beat me in the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon, coming in at 1:33:10. His time last year in the Hospital Hill Half was considerably slower, 1:57, but that leads me to my next discovery about him.

That’s Rene Peterson in the Army shirt in the photo above. That’s him sitting down in his “hand bike,” a wheelchair built for racing. An army vet, Rene did not lose the use of his legs in combat but in a auto accident about nine years ago. He could have gone into a depression. He could have taken all the pity and handouts that the world would offer him, but instead he began pushing that chair hard. While his time at Hospital Hill was not all that impressive, the idea of pushing that device up those hills blows my mind.

This man, whom I’ve never met but hope to soon, did not decide that pretty good was good enough. He did not look at his nonfunctioning legs and decide, “I’ll never make that goal.” He did not ease up. I don’t know if his mechanical ride provides some sort of advantage to him over me, but I do know that I don’t begrudge him whatever it might yield. Despite a disadvantage, Rene Peterson keeps his arms pumping and his wheels turning. He doesn’t ease up.

It seems to me that God knows perfectly well what my abilities, my infirmities, and my limits are. He created me, after all. God did not call me to a particular time or a particular place in this race of life. Instead, he called me to push forward with all my heart, soul, and mind. Easing up is not in the plan.

Limits are no Limit

I have limits as do you. No matter how hard I had trained as a kid, I’m pretty sure that I would have never been able to dunk a basketball or throw a 95 mph fastball. My lovely bride, having had one of her knees replaced a year ago, has put the idea of running completely out of her mind. But those limits, or the more significant ones that clutter up the lives of many people, do not mean that we cannot achieve things.

You might know who came in first in the 2015 Boston Marathon, but do you know who came in last? Maickel Melamed, a thirty-nine-year-old Venezuelano took that distinction, finishing the course in about 20 hours. Think about that. I could have run my two-hour half marathon, slept eight hours, and then run a three-hour follow up half and still have beaten Melamed by enough time to fly coast to coast. Twenty hours for 26.2 miles is way slower than most people walk.

But Melamed, who has suffered for years from a rare muscular disorder that makes simple movement exceptionally difficult, started and finished Boston. He has also accomplished a good number of other things that can’t have been easy.

God did not call most of us to win Olympic gold medals, break hockey records, or lift more weight than anyone before. He didn’t call most of us to be CEOs or Supreme Court justices or winners on The Voice. My body, including my brain and my voice, did not equip me for any of those things, but that limit does not give me a reason to stop trying.

Think of Paul’s companion, Silas. Did Silas look at Paul and bemoan a lack of writing skills, preaching skills, mental acumen, or (probably) charisma? We don’t hear about people crying that they’d never see Silas again. But still Silas did his duty. He made the most of his opportunities. Acts does not disclose exactly how valuable Silas was, but the fact that he stuck by Paul’s side says that he did not let his limits limit him.

If Maickel Melamed can finish the Boston Marathon, surely I can work through the shortcomings life has dealt me. I might not completely overcome them, just as Melamed will never run a competitive race, but in pushing forward despite them, I can, like this man, discover some of the wonders God has in store for me.