In the running world, “achieving our personal best” is a commonly used phrase for those who know they don’t stand a chance of winning! At the age of 48 I decided to take up running, and at my first race event was one of the last three runners to cross the finish line. But I wasn’t discouraged. It was truly my personal best and I was proud of it.
My husband of 22 years is my biggest fan. At the starting line of each race he helps me stretch while giving me a pep talk. When I cross the finish line he’s there snapping pictures like the paparazzi! You would think I was an Olympic gold medal winner, instead of a middle aged woman who had just accomplished another personal best. So when I entered my first half-marathon neither of us knew that “personal best” was about to take on a whole new meaning.
The course was flat and I was running better than I could have dreamed. Feeling confident, I was surprised when a man struggled past me. Not that I wasn’t used to being passed, but this man was listing awkwardly to the left and wheezing loudly. I was amazed at his tenacity and silently congratulated him. A few miles later as I was rounding the bend toward the finish line, I saw him again. With only ¼ mile left to go his struggling gait had turned into a limping, tortuous drag. Passing him, I said in a comradely voice, “We’re going to make it!” He replied, “I won’t, but you will.” I called back over my shoulder, “Yes you will, just don’t give up now.” and kept on running.
At the finish line I was tired, but happy with my accomplishment. As I started to walk away, someone grabbed my arm. I turned to find that same man with whom I had the brief exchange. He had just crossed the finish line, almost collapsing. He continued to clutch my arm as he struggled to say something, but couldn’t get the words out. I slid his hand down to mine so we could shake, and enthusiastically said “Congratulations! I knew you could do it!” He nodded several times, still trying to verbalize his emotion. He finally gave up, raised my hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he squeaked out a faint “Thank You!”
My personal best that day had nothing to do with running. Instead it was giving someone else the encouragement to go on when he no longer believed he could.
I believe that although we may not ever win the race, we gain so much more in helping our fellow man. We achieve our personal best every minute, every hour, every day, that we extend support to someone else in need.