My husband wrangled me, our teenage daughter, and our three best friends to participate in some sort of mud-filled obstacle course this upcoming weekend. You know how I love to spend the Saturday after the first full week of summer? Running a 5K through barbed wire and fire pits. Only not. It’s a bit redundant, n’est ce pas?
It just so happens that one of our running buddies this weekend, also ran alongside me for my first marathon. I’ve thought a lot about my marathon experience over the years. The pain and triumph of that day wrote its way permanently into my muscle memory, but the memory of my friend pounding the pavement next to me, refusing to let me quit, burns like a lamp–illuminating every step from start to finish.
When I rewind the tape, I don’t see the mile markers as they pass, I see the glow of my friend running beside me. He taught me what it means to support and lift up a friend when that friend feels like the road ahead is too hard to travel, when the end disappears from sight, and the obstacles to reach it feel so overwhelming, it just might kill body or spirit.
We all have a race to run, whether it be in our marriage, parenting, career, or our own spiritual development. I feel so blessed to have friends who train hard and keep their promises and offer me all the support I need to run my own race well. I want to emulate the kind of friendship that loves others well, that sets them up to run their race with confidence. Here’s what I learned along the way:
Run in front, alongside, and behind
My friend promised not to leave me. He stayed within sight for every high point and the inevitable lows when I felt certain I couldn’t go on. I still see the flash of white from his race shirt out of the corner of my eye when he edged forward to make way for us through a sea of runners, or dropped behind to fill our cups with water. I knew when we crested the toughest hill, he would be running right alongside of me, pushing hard, working through the pain.
I want to be the kind of friend who will run alongside you even when it’s painful, even when it costs me something, even when the experience hurts.
Offer practical help
Before we started, he double checked my gear and talked through what to expect on the course ahead. He stopped at every water break and made sure I had a cup of water for hydration. He made sure I saw the spectators handing out the free oranges and bananas. I returned the favor by hoarding my fuel gels, while my friend nearly passed out from a lack of food. Those bananas were a lifesaver. Literally.
Sometimes being a good friend, actually means offering one another a cup of cold water or a helping hand. I learned my lesson when I realized I might find myself having to explain to my friend’s wife why he never made it to the finish line. Food, water, expectations–let’s recognize where our people need help and offer it, even when we have needs too.
Tell them what they need and provide it
My friend told me when we should stop to use the port-o-potties. He made us take a break to stretch. He forced water on me even when I didn’t want it. He gave me advice for running the steepest hill, and he ran beside me the entire way, until we stood looking down from its great height.
We don’t always know what we need when facing a new or challenging situation. Sometimes, we’re just trying to survive, and a friend can see past our discomfort, helping us shift from a position of surviving to thriving. If you find yourself supporting a friend in their own life race, don’t simply tell them what they need, open up your hands and offer it.
Do you have a friend running the race of life with you? How can you be that friend to someone else?
Stay tuned for photos from the race this weekend on instagram.