I was in the fifth grade and on the track team. My two favorites were the 440 and the 50-yard dash. I was small and lanky, but I was very fast. But the main reason that I chose track was because it was during school time and any after school practice was reasonable to my parents because I could walk home. It was the only sports that didn’t inconvenience their lives.
Most of the time, I would run all the way home just to build up my strength and endurance. It was only 2 miles, so it felt good to release the energy. The freedom to run like the wind helped me through a lot of the pain growing up in a physically abusive home. Back in the 60’s & 70’s, nobody questioned the welts or bruises on me until my coach saw one on the back of my leg as we were sitting on the grass near the track. After practice, he pulled me aside and asked how I had gotten the welt that still stung from the night before when my dad was in a drunken rage and I was the closest target to his anger. As my coach asked the question, it took all I had not to cry. I just looked at the grass and made up a story of falling off my bike. Coach Ed, a gentle man, knew that it was more than a fall from a bike, but he didn’t press me. He’d put his hand on my should and just said “okay” and let me go home.
I hated my life at home. There were no fun family times, no bedtime stories, no birthday parties or dinner time connections, no hugs and definitely no encouraging words from them. My parents were self-absorbed partiers with 5 unwanted kids to feed and clothe. We were an interruption into their freedoms of adulthood.
I watched with envy as other kids had wonderful lives growing up with loving and caring parents, always celebrating as a family or going on family outings. My siblings and I were always looking for ways to stay out of the house so when my dad was on one of his drunken rampages, we were nowhere in sight. Running track was my way to stay away from the house. I would run the neighborhood in the name of track practice. When I would run, I felt powerful and in a team like the 440 dash, my team and I ruled the track. We won meet after meet and made state finals. Coach Ed was so proud of us that he would buy us all ice cream and tell us how good we were. I’d never had that, so I soaked up every word like he was telling me, and me alone.We set out to practice like we always did three days ahead of the state finals. We were at our best in every run. The last run of the 440, I was second to catch the baton. I was in position and ready to dash when my teammate handed me the baton, but in doing so accidentally put her foot just in front of my back foot, catching me and sending me down on both knees and the palms of my hands. The hot pavement of the track dug into my flesh as I skidded to a stop, curling into a ball on my side. Writhing in pain, Coach Ed was quick to my side and my teammates rushed in to see the carnage. I was taken to the school nurse, cleaned up and bandaged to be sent home.
My mom was called to come pick me up. She was not happy, to say the least, and her silence on the trip home spoke volumes to me. Once home, I was told to go to my room and not to come out until dinner. I was whipped that night for interrupting her time at home as she entertained friends. So not only was I hurting from the fall, but new welts on my backside stung like crazy. I was more determined at that time to be in the race that coming Saturday. Part of me wanted to die from such a horrible life at home while part of me wanted to win the race and celebrate with my teammates.
The next day at school, Coach Ed asked if I could still run with the team on Saturday. I told him that I was alright and wouldn’t miss it for the world, in spite of limping a little around my school. My determination to help my team and win the race was practically boiling inside of me. Practice that day was hard, but I pushed through it.
When Saturday came, I rushed to get my gym bag and head out the door to the school where the state finals were being held. The school was packed with people and families were lined up around the track to cheer on their kids running that day. My family didn’t come, but that didn’t matter. I was there for my coach and my team. Still, in bandages I pushed to fight the pain of my wounds, both on my legs and my backside to walk over where my team and coach were waiting. Coach Ed was so proud of us and gave his usual speech of encouragement. Our team was second to run and we waited with joyful anticipation.
As we took our spots on the track, I could hear the announcer call out our school and then our names, one by one. The announcer even made it a point to mentioned my injuries and yet I was still in the race. I felt a rush of red to my race, but I used that to power my legs for the sound of the gun. I ran with all my power that day, as did my team. We won the state championship in our age group and received a team trophy. What a victory for us as we hugged and celebrated. Our coach was pleased as we took our places to receive our medals. The cheering from the crowd was exhilarating.
Suicide is a hard subject to discuss, especially since I tried to take my own life at 15. I couldn’t take life at home anymore. I was done, I just wanted out. I was tired of the pain; I was tired of the family that didn’t want me. I was done with being physically and emotionally abused. I wanted to give up, I wanted it all to stop. Obviously, I didn’t succeed, because I’m here today to write this. Since that day that a friend stopped me from ending my life, and over the years since then, I have suffered divorce, discrimination, unemployment, breast cancer, the loss of my parents and one sibling to disease, failed relationships and setbacks. I am not rich, nor do I have the perfect career, yet I still run the race called “life.”
I refuse to let the pain of my past keep me from finishing the race for the prize set before me. What is that prize you ask? Because I have a deep relationship with Jesus, someday, when this life is over, I will meet Him face to face to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” That is my trophy, to be in eternity with Christ. I will not give up the race, I will not end my life early to escape the pain. I will push forward to whatever lies before me. Why? Sure, I could have given up years ago, but I look at my life since then and all the people who I have helped and encouraged to be better at what they do. The lives that I have touched because I went through cancer. The beauty that I have created through my artwork. The grandsons that I have and will be a part of their lives. Don’t give up my friend. Let God bandage your wounds with his love and forgiveness. Let him be your strength through the pain and suffering. You won’t regret it when you get to heaven and see all the people who are there because of you. Be encouraged today and stay in the race even if you have to be carried across the finish line.
Hebrews 12 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.