Posted by: rundadrun | February 26, 2010

The WALL, a Coke can and Team 4:13

I found myself leaning on a chain link fence at mile 19 or so of my first marathon(2006 Cincinnati Flying Pig), trying to stretch out cramps that had started attacking both my quads just above my knees.  The problem was that every time I grabbed my foot and pulled it back, my hamstring would begin to cramp.  This is where I met “THE WALL” that I had always heard about.  I had not met the wall before, even in my long runs, so this took me by surprise.  I would stop, try to stretch, and then start my death march toward the finish.  I had already given up on my lofty time goal, and just wanted to finish in an upright position.  It was around this point that I half-jokingly offered a Police officer $100 to borrow his bike. I was very much at the end of my endurance rope.

Now here I was, thinking about throwing in the towel, hurting bad and thinking that I would not be able to ever call myself a marathoner.  As I was praying and thinking and running, I heard a little noise behind me. As I watched in horror, an empty Coke can, caught in the wind, passed me at a pace that I wished my abused legs could achieve! My first thought was that I had finally reached the hallucination phase of my slow, painful death and that I would soon be standing before God in my Asics.  As the can continued to roll, I got angry. How dare a CAN pas me. I mean, I had long ago given in to the fact that I was being passed by runners of ALL shapes and sizes and ages. But a CAN! I remember laughing and praying, “God, just let me beat this can”. So, I accelerated a bit, stomped the can flat, and waddled on.

It was shortly after this that I looked up to see Downtown Cincinnati well off in the distance, and closer to me, I saw the back of a TEAM 4:13 shirt. If you aren’t familiar with Team 4:13, they go to races all over the country and wear shirts with Phil. 4:13 on the back so everyone can read it. Reading that verse that had always been so special to me was such a blessing at that point in my race.  I began chanting those amazing words in my head in time with my weary feet.  I even started singing the words to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song , “His Strength is Perfect” which is based in this verse.

“His strength is perfect,when our strength is gone

He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on

Raised in His power,the weak become strong

His strength is perfect,

His strength is perfect.

The last few miles are a blur. I remember passing the 25.2 sign and knowing that I could make 1 more mile.  This mile actually turned out to be my fastest mile by far.  I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes. A lifelong goal, and a promise to myself from when I had given up tobacco 9 years before had finally come true.

I have run 2 marathons since that day. Both of these marathons have their own special place in my memory, but I learned so much in my first marathon experience that it will always be special. There is always a WALL somewhere in front of us. We can train and prepare all we want, and we still need to be able to push through some resistance to our goals. I needed a little Coke can to get me motivated, and I needed to be reminded of the power of a verse that had always meant so much to me. I can truly do ALL things through Christ, who gives me strength.  I don’t want to trivialize this verse by saying that it is only about being able to keep running. This verse is the base for my life as a husband, father and follower of Christ. It was amazing to me to see it played out in a physical way that day.

God bless and happy running,




  1. This post brought a HUGE smile to my face. I love that you stomped that can! Fantastic! 🙂

    • Thanks Christine. I am sure there is an anger management lesson in that somewhere, but I am just choosing not to see it. 🙂
      God bless and Happy running,

  2. I ran Austin a couple of weeks ago, and there was a mother/daughter duo pretty much at the back, who were with Team 4:13. I don’t know how old the girl was; I think she had to be at least 14 (?) to enter the full marathon, but I didn’t want to ask her age when I was passing her. So, instead I complimented their shirts. I haven’t talked to anyone with 4:13 at any length to know what all they do, but it really is inspiring to see their shirts at mile ___ of a marathon.

    • Their mission is basically to share Christ’s love at athletic venues. I have spoken to them at the expo for the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, and they are great folks. In fact, after I told the guy at the booth my story, he gave me a free 4:13 shirt. They are quite inspiring.

  3. I linked to this post from a post you made on “running shorts”. I am glad the can inspired you to finish your run- I thought it was going to be that you caved and drank a coke:) I ran my first marathon last June less than 2 years after picking up running at age 45. I thought my hip joints would not make it through the 20 -30 km range but once that was done I knew I would finish. It is a pretty amazing thing.

    • Sounds like we are in similar boats with coming to running a little later. It is an amazing thing. Even when I have tanked on my goal times, I have to remember what an amazing thing it is to run a marathon.

  4. Thank you so much for your encouragement and well wishes! Hopefully one day I can run my own marathon..

    Take care.

    • You are welcome. Keep posting about your progress.
      Happy running

  5. thank you for reading my blog. half way through my run my friend said… i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me… what a help. your blog is inspiring.

    • Thank you for the kind comment. That verse has helped me through a lot of tough times.

  6. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I see in some of your posts you mention Gatlinburg, are you from TN?

    • I am in Cincinnati, but just visited Gatlinburg for the first time last weekend. Great place and awesome Christian youth conference. Can’t wait to go back and fish some of the trout streams.

  7. Goosebumps! What a great story. I’m getting ready to run my first 5K (gotta start somewhere) next weekend, and before last night, I was thinking I might be lucky to finish the 3.2 miles in an hour. But last night, I went to the track to run for the first time in about a year, and I managed to run a full mile, without stopping, in 11 minutes. I did 13 laps (which is basically 5K) in 45 minutes total. Woo! I’m feeling empowered, and believe it or not, I TOTALLY thought about Phil. 4:13 while I was running.

    Oh, and a fun bit of trivia: That verse in Romanian is, “Pot totul in Hristos, care ma intareste.” 🙂

    • Thanks again for stopping by and the kind remarks. Good luck in the 5K next weekend! Looks like you will blow away the 1 hour mark, since you already have. 🙂 And thanks for the translation into Romanian, that is too cool. 🙂
      Happy running,

  8. Love the can story! I hope I see one on my first marathon 🙂

    • Thanks and make sure it is a real one, cause if you’re stomping on cans no one else can see, they might remove you from the course. 🙂

  9. I’m way ahead of you. I’m bringing my own can from home.

    • Great plan! 🙂 BYOC!

  10. This is an excellent. I am training to run a mini-marathon in May, and (hopefully) a full marathon in October, so this post was well-received. Thanks.

    • You’re welcome and thanks for stopping by. Good luck in your upcoming races.
      Happy running,

  11. I keep going from feeling nothing can stop me, to feeling intimidated at the prospect of my first marathon. But your blog is an inspiration. Thanks!

    • Thanks. And believe me, if I can run a marathon, anyone can!:)

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