In one of my ultras last year I had made it through the very last aid station and was only three miles from the finish of a 50K on an extremely hot day when I came upon another runner that was really struggling bad, weaving back and forth along the road and bending over about every five steps dry heaving. Everything within me was saying “run on, don’t stop” but one thing I have learned in this crazy running world was that someday I am going to need help so I better be willing to lend a hand. My wife had met me at the last aid station and the plan was that we were going to cruise into the finish together but as I stopped alongside the struggling runner I knew that he really needed a hand so I walked with him, poured some water on him and then handed him off to my wife, knowing she had her cell phone and we were coming into cell coverage soon and maybe she could find this man’s friends or wife or something. This actually happens a lot in ultra races and it is one of the things that I really love about this sport. There are so many people willing to help….the incredibly awesome people who volunteer at aid stations, the family and friends who drive into remote places to cheer you in and out of aid stations and of course the corps of awesome runners who are always willing to reach out and urge you to keep going, to slow down and run with you for a bit or even to share their water or nutrition with you in a pinch. I firmly believe that what makes us better as ultra runners is our willingness to take our eyes off of ourselves and be on the lookout to always help a fellow runner.
Helping others along the way is an incredible way to about our regular lives also. When is the last time you stopped to help somebody with a broken down car along the highway? Or that homeless guy curled up under the bridge? Or the young mother trying to corral her clan in the grocery store? When was the last time you noticed a co-worker looking kind of down and offered an encouraging word or even just stopped what you were doing to acknowledge they were alive? When was the last time you said “hey” to the geek, the nerd, the awkward one in your life that just isn’t cool enough for you? When was the last time you offered somebody in ministry a text or phone call just to say “love you” or “thank you” and didn’t expect anything in exchange for your brief encounter? I love this passage in Philippians 2:1-4 “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being unified with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the spirit…….then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” When we take our eyes off of ourselves and the goals and dreams and plans we have and look to others our finish lines are oh so very much more significant. I remember after I finished that race, disappointed my wife wasn’t there a little but really proud of the fact that she was willing to help somebody else out and glad I was there at the moment to slow down and take a little time to help the guy out that it meant just as much if not more to be than my finish. And when that gentleman crossed the line I cheered as loud for him as if I had known him all my life. See there is something that happens in us when we take our eyes off ourselves and put them on ours. We are filled with more life and energy than we were before even when we are giving of our lives and our energy.
Living an ultra life means keeping your eyes peeled to see others in need of a helping hand and slowing down long enough to give them the help they need instead of just passing by hoping somebody else does it.