You’re not going to see the names of Laura Mazur and Jessica Robertson on the sports page of a newspaper. They’re not going to be featured on ESPN as great athletes for their marathon running.
But Mazur and Robertson know something that a lot of us forget. It’s hard to finish the things we set out to do, but they know it’s easier to finish with the help of someone who’s running the same race.
Mazur is from New Bremen, Ohio, and Robertson is from Braddock, Penn. I don’t know whether they knew each other before Sunday, but these two women were the last two to finish the Pittsburgh marathon yesterday. It’s unclear at what point in the race they started holding hands, but these two women ran together for at least a couple of miles — and they crossed the finish line together.
They were the last two runners to finish the race. Good runners finished with times under two and a half hours. It took these women nearly eight hours.
But they finished the race. Together.
It would be easy to belittle runners such as these. They’re not in shape. They’re slow. They obviously had no hope of winning. Some people in our culture love to point fingers at such people and laugh.
I’m in awe that they could finish — could keep running for almost eight hours — and it gives me a lump in my throat to see them holding onto each other like this. It seems that neither was going to let the other one quit the race.
A marathon is a good metaphor for many things in life. Most of us are really good at starting things, but most of us are also prone to quitting the wrong things.
I don’t know the stories of these women. Were they former athletes who were trying to prove something to themselves long after they got out of shape? Were they people who had never been active and decided they had to start working on their bodies before they killed themselves? Or had they just been disappointed by life and they needed to prove to themselves they could do something difficult?
I don’t know their reasons, but there are all sorts of possibilities.
You and I decide every day which things are worth continuing and which things we ought to quit. Honestly, we often mix up the two. We hold onto things we should walk away from — and we quit things which deserve our patience. It’s hard to be certain which is which.
But if you can decide what’s worth doing in life, find a partner to help you do it. Find someone who’s running the same race you want to run.
Most of us try to make ourselves partners with people who are running entirely different kinds of races. While we’re running the race that matters to us, that partner is out running an entirely different kind of race. That’s not a partnership. That’s two people doing entirely different things who happen to live in the same house.
We need partners who want to run the same race we want to run — for the same reasons and with the same values. And we need partners whose words and deeds we can count on. We need people who will be good teammates. We need partners who will hold our hands as we cross the finish line together.
I doubt I’ll ever hear anything else about Mazur and Robertson. I assume they’ll go their separate ways and experience lives that will be changed — at least slightly — by what happened Sunday.
It won’t be because they won. It won’t be because they’re ever likely to be champions. It will simply be the fact that they finished the race — and that each helped the other make it across the finish line.
Finishing the right race is sometimes a win all by itself.