Wednesday, May 4, 2011


                                                    INTO THE FIRE        

                               First time marathoners, comrades in arms.

            Near the starting line first timers mingle chatting and laughing.  They try to reduce the marathon to something normal, something routine, something familiar. They kid, pretend to be confident, and recount training runs. But, soon a hush falls as the  challenge looms.

            For months they have trained, and need only one thing to make them marathoners, crossing the finish line at 26.2 miles, and they will never be marathoners until they’ve done it. No one knows what will happen beyond Mile 20. It’s uncharted territory. Will they respond with strength and courage, or retreat into the crowd? It’s impossible to tell, and that’s the hell of it.

            By tonight they will be different. They will understand then what they cannot know now, how they will react under fire. Like green troops going into combat, when their story is told, it will be about those who survived and those who perished. Which will they be?

            They look into the faces of those around them, friends they have trained with, questioning who will make it and who won’t. They feel isolated as the starting gun draws closer.            

            The mystery is that they have volunteered for this mission. Why? What trait do they share that separates them from others? Not heredity. Not experience. Not success or failure in life. Perhaps somewhere inside they sense that they cannot discover the truth about themselves without risking it all, putting it all on the line for everyone to witness. The force that drives them to the starting line will deliver the answer by day’s end, a glimpse of who they really are.
            Life detaches. The marathon unites. Comrades in arms, the first timers band together to conquer the world, if only for a day. Most will never see each other again. But, neither will they ever be far from each other’s heart.

            Battling through the final miles, bonds will form between strangers. The strong will help the weak, the weak will find strength, all with a glance and a word of encouragement. Nothing they feel for the rest of their lives will be as spontaneous. Nothing they do will be as courageous, as compassionate, or as loving. In the face of defeat, they will give each other the gift of victory.

            And so when the battle is over the soldiers will retire. But, no matter where they go, no matter what they do, they will remember this day. The day they went to war alone, risked it all, and came home together as victors.  These are marathoners.      


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