How 13.1 Miles Changes Things

May 3, 2010 | 41 comments

The moon still lit the city streets below, but my sister and I were already awake. Had we really slept at all?

A sliver of bathroom light fell on the hotel-room floor. And at 4:15 a.m., my sister turned on the faucet, signaling the start of a day that would change us.

Still nestled in the puffy white nest of the hotel bed, I texted her: “This is the day the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

She texted back: “Amen, sista.”

And then we laughed out loud in Room 838 at this absurdly beautiful thing we were about to do.

Some might say: “It’s ‘just’ a run.”

But for us — three women who said Yes! back in January — this was more than a run. Yes, we would log miles on Lincoln, Nebraska, streets on May 2, 2010. We would cross the finish line. We would claim the medals.

But we ran for more than the satisfaction of a bronze circle hanging from our necks.

We plodded out prayer and praise. We ran pavement miles for real people with real hurt.

Because this wasn’t about us. It was about them.


In the early-morning darkness, we pulled the purple jerseys over our heads, with our reasons for running written in Sharpie on the backs of our shirts. We were running for Paul, for Deanna, for Melvin, for Julia and for others who have fought — or continue to fight — leukemia or other cancers.

We ate our oatmeal, fuel for these muscles. We loaded our belts with sports-gels and water bottles, then as a team, we walked together to the start line. We asked each other the questions:

Would our training prove us able? Would our pains flare up and stop us cold?

What if I’d just made some serious error in judgment? Could I really do this thing?
Me, the girl who was picked last for every game of kickball at recess, always the last one to cross the finish line? I couldn’t run to the mailbox and back a few months ago. And now, 13.1 miles?

God so often answers fear with Truth in song, and we heard the familiar words from the worship band set up along the sidewalk. The singer’s familiar words rose above the clamor of fear. We raised our hands to the heavens and shouted the words of affirmation:

‘Cause when we see You we find strength to face the day.
In Your presence, all our fears are washed away.”


We found our places among the 8,000, and the gun went off. It took us 15 minutes to reach the starting line, and we lumbered forward in a murmur of nervous expectation.

A woman ahead of me had these words on the back of her T-shirt: “Three months ago, this seemed like a great idea.”

Then it was our turn to cross over, to begin what we’d set out to do. My dad stood on the sidelines pumping fists in the air. The words of my coach rang in my ears. “You’ve already earned the medal; you just have to cover 13.1 miles to claim it!”

And that seemed permission enough to treat the next 2 hours and 28 minutes NOT as a race, but as a journey.

“Lord, don’t let me miss the ordinary miracles in this,” I prayed as I stepped over the line.

And yes, I think I was smiling all the way. Well, except for mile 11. Oh, and maybe that hill on mile 9? And my oh my, today I hurt in places I didn’t know I had!

As I ran, I remembered words that my pastor-friend Bob left on my Facebook wall a few days before: “I believe this is more than just a race. I pray you hear the message God has for you. Have fun running & listening.”

And, yes, Bob, I heard! I saw!

I slowed enough to see the smiles on the faces,
to hear the stranger calling out my name, written on my jersey,
to take the cup of water from the hand,
to see the Ys in the cracks of the road and in the fallen sticks.

I blew kisses to my girls, and slowed enough to see the pride on their faces. They knew what and who and Who (capital W) this was all about.

I left behind personal gain, or the desire to win, or the hope that I’d even look good while doing it. I abandoned freedom from the pain, trading it for a cause bigger than myself.

And, no, I’m no athlete. I’m no hero. I ran for the heroes. You know them:

I ran for the mother getting her diagnosis today.
The grandpa who is finding out, after all these years, that the Agent Orange is why he’s now sick.
The toddler in the chemo room.
The grieving dad in the funeral parlor.
The mommy in the barber’s chair who’s going bald today.

We ran for the fighters who fight harder than this cancer that sucker-punches, kicks, spits and shouts: “I’m not done with you yet.”

Hey you, cancer: We’re coming after you. And we’re shoutin’ louder and fightin’ harder.

We pronounced this moment a God-Thing. At mile 12, sister Juliann and I found each other!
We ran into the stadium and across the finish line hand-in-hand.

For us, this was more than “just” a run. Together, the three of us raised more than $7,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My father-in-law Paul died of leukemia in January 2009. The woman in the middle, Aimee, is Paul’s daughter. My sister, Juliann, is on the right.

Our entire Team in Training team raised about $60,000. This is our huddle the night before.
Go, Team, Go!

Aimee ran the full marathon. And after 26.2 miles, she raised her arms in the air all the way across that football field. What a beautiful soul you are, Aimee! I love you!

My sweet daughters were part of our cheerleading squad.

Fellow bloggers: Do you recognize these ladies? Deidra from Jumping Tandem and Michelle from Graceful live in Lincoln and came to visit me at the hotel the day before my run. They are beautiful women and fantastic writers. Deidra and Michelle, you radiate! And you’re as delightful in person as in Blogger World!

Aimee, Jennifer and Juliann thank you for your support, your prayers, your financial contributions and your words of encouragement. Let’s keep shoutin’ and runnin’! One + one + one … step by step by step … we can beat cancer.

by | May 3, 2010 | 41 comments


  1. LynnRush

    I am so proud of you!

  2. Andrea

    GOD bless you. Thank you for sharing and most of all thank you for running for the hero's!
    Blessings, andrea

  3. patty

    **sniff sniff**wiping away tears** You inspire me, dear one! I love your heart, your perseverence, and your faith. From the pictures, I can see how swift and beautiful your feet were as you ran for Him!

  4. Chrissy

    I teared up while reading this. Great job, you! You have much to be proud of today!

  5. Marci @ All Things Wonderful

    Hi. I just came over from "Runner Mom". I found your blog on her list of favs. Now I know why she has you there…
    I adore this post. I had to read through the tears. I have been running about a year and just this weekend, I began to question "Am I made for this?". Thank you for an encouraging post. It blessed my heart. I love to see women who love Jesus and have so much to share. Thank you for running for cancer. Thank you! Thank you!

  6. Lyla Lindquist

    Look at all those people running behind you.

    Last to be picked? Last to cross? Last nothing. You're part of a big ol' pack of ordinary miracles.

    You've run well. Advil and ice today, my friend. Thanks for doing this.

  7. Missie

    So awesome! Congrats! You did an amazing thing!

  8. Janis@Open My Ears Lord

    What a wonderful tribute to those fighting the battle and those who have fought before, like your father-in-law. Three great writers joined together the night before attests to the quality of your writing. So enjoy your posts.

  9. Deidra

    Oh my Lord in heaven! Oh my. I've got to pull myself together so I can type out this comment…

    Here I am, choking back tears, sitting in front of my computer, my heart spilling over for you and over you. Your heart. Your family. Your beautiful you. How am I so blessed to look at these photos and read these words and know you? God is so good to us. So very, very good to us.

    Congratulations! You didn't miss it. Not one bit.

  10. cindy

    Thank you!

  11. mom2six

    Heroes, everywhere I look and you right there part of the group. Makes me think of Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

  12. Shirl

    I am so proud of you! Big, big hugs to you today!

  13. alicia

    Amazing! I have tears in my eyes and hope in my heart. You are beautiful for doing this! (and who smiles while they run?! you are amazing!)

  14. Stephani

    You are an inspiration in more ways than one!

  15. Nancy

    I am overwhelmed right now, after reading this. I am so proud of you! Thank you for running for Deanna… her death has left a void, yet I would never wish for her to be back, she was in so much pain. When you sent your text yesterday I noticed that you finished your 13.1 mile race, one week after she finished her "race" [almost to the minute that she died]. You are an inspiration.

  16. Marilyn Moser

    What a beautiful post and such a heartfelt message that it brought me to tears!! Way to go Jennifer!

  17. Cindy

    wipe tears*(imagine that)* God's richest blessings my friend. Those fathers are such heros aren't they. May you continue to feel His tug and His call on you my very special friend. Way to listen, way to hear Him. You are a blessing to so many by being you and the Christlike reflection you so desire. You are reflecting Him my friend, you are. I pray you can rest in Him too and keep on keepin on.

    Blessings, Cindy

  18. Beth E.

    YES!!! Way to go! What a great accomplishment, raising money to find the cure for leukemia, AND what a wonderful way to honor your father-in-law.

    I'm proud of you, too!

  19. A Simple Country Girl


    Thank you for sharing your journey and your heart.


  20. elaine @ peace for the journey

    What an awesome gift you gave to the world and to yourself…

    Yes, I imagine you are changed in ways you didn't imagine. You will carry this milestone with you for the rest of your days.

    Keep to it, sweet sister. This is just the beginning… a gracious metaphor of what is to come.

    Lots of love and peace~elaine

  21. Carey

    Way to go, beautiful woman of God!!! Way to go. Tears in my eyes. You ran a good race, girl.

  22. Rose

    Woohoo! I am so happy for you! What an awesome testimony and I love the pics. What beautiful ladies, inside and out!

  23. Graceful

    Oh my gosh, I have goosebumps down both arms — that picture of you and your sister running hand in hand through the stadium!

    Congratulations on running the race (and I mean that both physically and spiritually!). I am so proud of you, and so very grateful that I got to meet you in person!

  24. Billy Coffey

    I'm so proud of you, Jennifer. This was a victory in so many ways. Funny that my word verification is "herro". I think that says it all.

  25. Modesty is Pretty

    Wow! God bless you so much! I almost cried again =) your posts are so beautiful and inspiring.

  26. Shawn

    I am so proud of you! I'm wiping away the tears as I think of all you've accomplished. You and Juliann have inspired me!

  27. Anne Lang Bundy

    I already look up to you, Jennifer. But now, I can honestly say you're my hero.

  28. Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife

    I love the picture of you holding hands! What a beautiful thing a friend is.

    Great job!

  29. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    All of you … I can't adequately express how much your words here in this space mean to me. I treasure your words, your prayers, your encouragement. You're all beautiful, beautiful people.

    I send you my love!

  30. Shelly

    Great job, Jennifer! You are an inspiration and this makes my summer 5K look alot easier!

  31. Shelly

    Great job, Jennifer!
    You are an inspiration and this helps make my summer 5K look alot easier!

  32. Bina

    Hello my sweet friend! Long time, no hear, eh? 🙂

    Seems like forever since I have peeked into this window of your heart…and yet, I read with tears flowing as I always have as you are just so beautiful, Miss Jennifer!!!

    I am so very proud of you – and love that He gave you a smile and a glow that shinned out as you kept one foot in front of the other!!

    Sooo many hugs,

  33. Julie

    Well done, Jennifer!

    I was praying for you this weekend and am glad to hear that you did well!

    Thank you, for running that race and making a difference.


  34. RCUBEs

    Well done sister Jennifer! It won't be the first time you would hear those words! The last time would be the greatest! Blessings. And awesome pics you had!

  35. Jennifer

    You are awesome! I can't believe you three ladies raised that much for cancer–amazing. I have a feeling we're made for much more than we allow ourselves to be.

  36. Mike Franey

    A great day described perfectly!

  37. annkroeker

    Well run … well done.

    You ran for those who must undertake a different kind of marathon.

    May God bless each step in your life, Jennifer!

  38. Missy

    Wow. What an awes for the glory of God. Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

  39. Runner Mom

    Whoohooo!! I am so proud of you, sweet friend!! You did it! And, God held your hand the entire time! Don't you love running a race with Him? I surely do! Glad you saw those "Y"'s in the road too!

    The pictures are awesome! Love them!! Enjoy these next few days with some tylenol and slow walks. Then, ponder and pray about another race!


  40. Michelle

    Congrats, I am so excited for you!

    I suppose its too early to ask for prayer for me. But, after I find a sponsor & in the Autumn, I plan to go on what they call `The road to Emmaus`. I have no idea what it is. My Goal: After I finish this 3 day weekend I will be witnessing to women in prison.

  41. Megan Willome

    Jennifer, it's pretty hard to inspire me when it comes to cancer, but you did it. Maybe it's the running–something I took up through Race for the Cure (for my mom).

    Blessings! And thanks for your sweet comment the other day on my Mother's Day post.


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