Monday, July 28, 2008

Ryan Hall

I came across this article on Ryan Hall. In case you don't know Ryan is the #1 marathoner in the US. He is the fastest american born person at the distance of 26.2 miles. He also holds the american record for the fastest half marathon. Ryan is also a first class guy and clearly a follower of Jesus Christ.

Read the article here. It's long so if you don't get to all of it I highlighted a few things. They might not make sense if you don't read the whole article or know a little about Ryan's life and achievements.

There is no dust on Ryan Hall's Bible. It is hardly tattered, but the gilding on the pages is scored and worn. When he opens it to follow the sermon, it falls open easily to reveal well-thumbed page corners and verses underlined in pen. This Bible is not a prop. You can see him turning to it again and again. When racing for Heaven, one must train to the finish.

Everything is extraneous to those legs. You can see them in footage from the homestretch of the Trials, turning over in a pinwheeling lope, each foot meeting the earth right on axis, then looping up and away to fly forward again. The legs are all business right to the finish, even as the arms begin to loosen, even as Hall's head begins to swivel to acknowledge the noise of the crowd. The closer he draws to the line, the more evident it is that this is a finish for the ages. Hall begins to gesticulate, pointing to the sky, raising his arms high, even slapping hands with the people crowding the course. At first it seems uncharacteristic based on what you know of Hall and his mellow Christian demeanor. Then you notice the blazing intensity of his eyes and the inclusiveness of his open arms, and you realize he is not exulting, but exhorting. He is not celebrating triumph over man but rather triumph in the Lord--in short, this is a man in rapture. Hall often refers to running in terms of sanctuary, and here he is now, Brother Lawrence in a singlet, twining work to worship, running 4:55 splits, praising God full tilt right until he breaks across the line and the only thing left to do is bow quietly down, the work all done, the victory won.

Eventually, Susie speaks. "You know, for three days before every one of Ryan's races, Mickey fasts and prays. He prays that it will be a good race and a safe race." Up on the screen Ryan is surging for the finish, strong as a bolting deer, glorifying the Lord with each step. You think of Mickey, on his knees and hungry (so weak one time he fell and wound up in the ER), beseeching that same Lord that He might deliver every runner safe to the finish line. And yet we know full well watching the footage now, that even as Ryan Hall was pointing to the sky and the crowd was making a crazy joyful noise, his friend Ryan Shay was dead. The following night Mickey dined with Shay's father-in-law. "What do you say to someone who's lost their son?" he says, shaking his head. "What do you say?"

Ryan Hall's grandmother is suddenly at my elbow. Her face is troubled. All day she has been a sparkling presence. A petite woman with glittering eyes, her family loves to tease her for her vociferous cheering at Ryan's races. In private company she is quick to laugh and often punctuates her asides with a knowing grin. But now the house is quiet--Mickey has his son paused up there on the screen--and the glitter in her eyes has gone wet.

"I want you to know?" says Madeline, faltering. "I want you to know that this family prays, and prays for many things. That it will be a good race, that it will be a safe race, but they never?they never?" She stops now, holding her hand to her mouth as her eyes fill with tears. It takes her a moment to gather before she can speak again.

"They never pray to win."

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