This past week I ran, for the third year in a row, with TEAM Mission in the Ragnar Relay Race- a two hundred mile relay race from the Canadian border to Langley, WA. TEAM Mission is a recovery program at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission that battles addiction and homelessness through running, fitness and community. The team, who is led by Scott Sowle, provides training and support through a close knit team of fellow program members, volunteers and UGM staff. There are opportunities to participate in a variety of running and fitness events: Ragnar, marathons/half marathons, Spartan, 5K and 10K races. TEAM Mission's motto is "We believe every mile matters, not only for physical health but also for self-discipline, self-confidence and self-esteem."
In early January 2016, Ragnar was announced at an All Mission Meeting. The coordinator asked staff to participate with TEAM either through running, volunteering or driving a van. At the time I realized I was overweight, out of shape and slightly depressed about this circumstance. The announcement was a revelation to me- it gave me a goal to pursue, to get in shape and ready in two months for the Ragnar race. I trained hard, dropped twenty pounds and felt confident I could finish my three race legs (a total accumulation of 20 miles run over three runs).
Now, years prior I had run two marathons, a half marathon and a few 10ks, so I was prepared to train. However, what I wasn't prepared for when Ragnar came along was the camaraderie, support and team spirit that would come from running with the Hope Place Team (four ladies in program and one staff who had been through program herself). We cheered and encouraged one another during our legs in the early mornings, heat of the day and middle of the night.
While sleeping, eating and driving in the tightly packed, 10 passenger van, I was moved to hear my teammates marvel at their race accomplishments- one reflecting just a short time prior she had been addicted to drugs and homeless, never thinking she could accomplish any feat this challenging. This is why I continue to run this race each year- the stories, the race, the fellowship and the prize (not only the sweet medal, but the satisfaction of running the race and crossing the finish line with the whole team). To me, this race is a microcosm of the journey of faith, which is exemplified best in the scriptures: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; and "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Hebrews 12:1 There is truth to the African Proverb (slightly altered for this context): "If you want to go fast, run alone. If you want to go far, run together"
Over the course of my own personal faith journey, I've learned faith needs to be exercised every day- which builds confidence, endurance and wears the tread on "shoes of doubt". If you would like to learn more about TEAM Mission, participate in training or a race, or hear more stories about their amazing recovery program please visit their website or their page on the UGM site.