Back in February I had the honor of representing TEAM 413 – GRACERUNNER MINISTRIES at the Rock ’n’ Roll St. Pete Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, Fla. We had a good expo, met lots of wonderful people and then ran the race on that Sunday morning.
My race was a success by our ministry standards -- it was about being on the course to encourage others, to represent TEAM 413 and most of all to glorify God. At most of the Rock ’n’ Roll events, my buddy John “The Penguin” Bingham is the lead announcer. Bingham and I first met back in 2002, and we have remained friends through the years. In my opinion, Bingham is one of the most significant forces in the fitness running boom of the past 15 years. He is a self-proclaimed “accidental athlete” and offers hope and inspiration to people from all over the world. The list of people who I respect as much as I do John Bingham is very short.
At the start line and the finish of most of the Rock ’n’ Roll races, Bingham finds me, acknowledges me in his unique way and mentions TEAM 413. This simple act of kindness validates the effort of everyone who slips on a TEAM 413 shirt and shares their faith on their journey. Bingham’s words mean a lot to me personally because I know what it means to all of our TEAM 413 folks.
This day would be different. As I ran across the last timing mat just before the finish, my name most likely popped up on the computer screen and Bingham knew that I was on my way. He called out my name, mentioned TEAM 413 and then he said, “thank you for all you do for this sport!” He didn’t know it, but his words touched my heart, lifted my spirit and tears rolled down my face. A member of the medical staff even asked me if I was OK, and I replied that I was just emotional. I hopped aboard one of the shuttles, returned to my hotel, packed and then quickly made my way to the airport.
At about 30,000 feet somewhere over the southeastern United States, it finally hit me why Bingham’s simple words had drawn such emotion from within me. It’s not that I have done anything for this sport; this sport has done so much for me.
Many years ago I was told I would never run again after a life-changing, horrific accident. I went through significant life-changing events. I lived through a job change that hurt me more than anyone will ever know. We had a flood in our home caused by a broken pipe that destroyed virtually everything we owned. I suffered from significant medical problems that took doctors almost five years to figure out. We started a small ministry called TEAM 413. A divorce that I didn’t know was coming hit me hard. We struggled to keep the ministry afloat.
Then, through running, I met Kiki and we married in 2005. Other issues would be hard on both of us during the next few years. However, one thing would remain constant -- God would be glorified and TEAM 413 would become the largest ministry for endurance athletes in the world. Through the hard times when we didn’t think we could go on, God would provide.
Through all of those changes, our TEAM 413 family and the overall running community lifted us up when we couldn’t hold ourselves up. Our wonderful expo partners always checked to see how we were doing. Runners from all over the world would lift us up in prayer and ask their friends to check out TEAM 413. God would provide ways for us to get in front of more people than I could ever comprehend. He would open the doors and windows of the hearts of people from all over the world through TEAM 413, GRACERUNNER JOURNAL, GRACE-WORDS, GRACERUNNER JOURNEY and so many other unique ways. He gave me absolute grace that I don’t understand or deserve.
You see, it’s not what I’ve done for the sport of running, it’s what this sport has done for me. God used running to help give me back things that I had lost. It helped mold me into the person that I strive to be each day. Running has given me far more than I can ever give it. The wonderful people of my sport are family to us. Kiki and I are blessed to travel this road together as we praise God in everything we do.
My mantra for race weekends is always, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord for He is worthy of your praise. Lift Him up TEAM 413!” This living, breathing “thing” is much more than a sport to me. It has become a lifestyle to glorify God, to celebrate His mercy and grace, and to share my faith forward.