I plan to run another marathon this Saturday.

Last year was my 15th Country Music Marathon here in Nashville, TN. It’s the only marathon I’ve ran and am one of only 38 who has ran all fifteen.  Only ~8 people have ran the full each year.

As my fellow 15-year runner and 16th year registrant Larry Epps puts it, “I sometimes think I’m just too stupid to stop.”

This annual run has been a point of evaluation for me. It gives me a chance to think about how fortunate I’ve been to be healthy enough to run 15 of these things. It reminds me of what I’ve lived through. It reminds me that continued health is this unequal tension between my part – sleep, care for this temporal body, eat as well and and train, and God’s part – the abundant grace of God.

I’ve been thinking about last year’s run for a year.  It’s almost time for another endurance event.  On Saturday’s training run, on the marathon course, I was thinking about my fondest memory from last year.

I had such hopes for the 15th marathon. About mile 22 the weather was taking it’s toll on me as it headed toward a high of 83°. The gaps in training from ministry travel and ‘just life’ were making itself very evident. By mile 24, I was coming out of Shelby Park with heavy feet.  My hope of a reasonably good time, for me, had faded. I just didn’t have the stamina and mental depth to maintain my pace. But I was still moving.

From my perspective, if it’s a great day for spectators, it’s not a good day to run a marathon. If it’s a little chilly and rainy for spectators…it’s a good day to run. This was a great day for spectators.

After getting worked over by a final, small hill at 5th and Shelby about .6 mile from the finish line…where I had walked some…again, I turned left onto Woodland Street for the final downhill to LP Field. I was whipped but moving well.

There I saw a young man walking. Based on his shirt and haircut I said, “Where we going Soldier?” He look out of the corner of his eye.

It was one of those looks that communicates…oh man, that’s an old guy and he said what?

I said “Let’s go…sir.”  I call every Soldier sir.

I ran the last half mile with a young soldier who I learned was from Fort Campbell. Just a little while before I had been walking.

I thanked him for serving and that his service helps to make it possible to me to run 15 Country Music Marathons in freedom. The emotion was building in me.

Nearing the final turn to the finish line I pointed to my kids who were yelling my name and told him his work helps to keep them safe.

I was overcome by emotion.  Finishing a marathon is emotional for me. It’s done.

After we finished, he said to me “You kicked my ass, sir or I’d still be walking.”  I shook his hand and thanked him for running with an old guy.  I’m sure I didn’t kick his ass. An old guy just nudged him along…and I needed someone to run with. It was one of the highlights of the day for me.

We got into the finishers area and I shouted “Here’s a currently serving military man.”

And as someone approached, the young Soldier said again, “And he kicked my ass.”

Truth is, it was a joy to run with him to the finish line. It helped to adjust my perspective.  I run in freedom because other people stand on the wall and God has been so very gracious to this country.

My 16th Country Music Marathon is this Saturday, April 25th. Me, my wife, Barbara, who has ran 13 Country Music Marathons and 30,000 of our closest friends will gather on Broadway in downtown Nashville to run.  Run…because we can.

At this point, I’ll do my part to keep this aging body moving. I’ll eat as well as I can.  I’ll make sleep a priority. I’ll manage my emotional and intellectual capabilities and inabilities as well as I am able…submitted to God.

I run, not as an end in itself. I want to be fit to serve in Christ’s name. I want to keep up with my kids. I want to be able to say to others, ‘let’s go’ rather than ‘you go ahead’.

And there is no telling who I’ll bump into.