After training for two months, I had the opportunity to take part in something so much bigger than myself. Dribbling the NYC Half Marathon was something that I personally never imagined doing, but when you give your life to Christ, you never fully know what He has in store for you. Here’s some of what happened August 15-16, 2009:
On Saturday afternoon, Occh and I met up to head into the city to pick up my number and D-tag at the New York Road Runners building. As we were switching trains to get uptown, we bumped into a girl named Ashley from Connecticut who was also going to be running in the Half. Ashley just looked like a runner. She mentioned the months that she had been training and I felt slightly awkward – I had only been training for two months and by no means do I look like a runner. As we entered the NYRR building, I realized this was it. The next day I would be dribbling a basketball to become a part of something huge. After we picked up my things, Occh and I headed to Central Park to pray for the following day and to contact the group of people who were going to be coming with us.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I was staying over my Pastor and his wife, Sandy’s house. I had a million emotions and thoughts racing through my mind. I was scared, nervous, anxious, excited, proud, and thankful and overwhelmed all at the same time. Would you be able to sleep at that point? I finally prayed, relaxed and fell asleep to wake up at 4:45am and see Sandy set and ready to go.
Occh and our friend Ben drove us to Central Park where the race would start. The ride from Sandy’s house to Manhattan felt like an eternity. I was praying throughout the ride and the rush of emotions that I had the night before all changed into a brand new feeling – I felt blessed. My desire for that day was that the Lord would be glorified through my race, and right before I got out of the car, I thought back to what Occh had said to me a few days earlier: “Just think of the smile that the Lord will have on His face while you’re dribbling to let others know about these children”. I knew then that the two months that I had trained, was all for that day, and at that point, I couldn’t wait to get started!
I definitely stood out as Sandy and I walked to the corrals with a crowd of other runners – I was wearing a dribbletheworld.com t-shirt, basketball shorts, and I was dribbling a basketball. You can imagine the looks that I got from some people! When we finally got into our corral, I felt confident it what was going to be starting in less than 30 minutes. A girl came up to me and she said, “I have to ask you, are you going to dribble a basketball the whole way? And why?” I got to tell her all about Dribble the World, and as I began talking, a group of 15 other runners turned around to listen to what I had to say about the orphans in Africa and girls worldwide who are being sexually trafficked daily. There were looks of shock on their faces, and with a smile, I continued to tell them that it was all for Bethesda Outreach and Love146. People smiled, complimented me on my efforts, and told me that when they saw me dribbling, that they would be cheering me on.
Finally, it was time for the race to start! For the first mile or so, there were so many people jammed together in Central Park that I couldn’t put the ball on the ground. I was slightly frustrated, but I knew that when I had the open space, it was time to get to work and show people what Dribble the World was all about.
I stuck with Sandy for the first 4 miles, and then she left me in the dust! After finishing the loop in Central Park, I was ready for some new scenery. As I approached the curve to leave the Park, I saw four bright green dribbletheworld.com shirts screaming their lungs out – I couldn’t have been happier to see them and to finally get to a new location – Broadway! I bolted out of the Park and went from being full of energy to being exhausted in a matter of seconds. I made it to Carnegie Hall, and there was another group of bright green shirts and my friend Ron (who had run the full marathon and the half with Occh) and I was so excited to see him! Ron is the man – he ran 5 ½ miles with me and was an amazing encouragement throughout the rest of the race.
As we ran down Broadway, I felt like I was in a movie – the whole experience was surreal. I couldn’t believe where I was and I knew that it was only because of Christ that the opportunity was possible. Knowing that the race was a way to make more people aware of childhood prostitution and the lives that it affects was a huge motivating factor. I was riding high and feeling great again. I love people from New York because they’ll say whatever they want to you. I heard the craziest comments from people who were watching from the streets like, “That’s what I’m talking about!” and even, “Keep dribbling the world girl” from one of New York’s Finest. One of the other runners’s looked over his shoulder and shouted, “Hey girl! I’m open for the fast break!” I couldn’t help but laugh.
When Ron and I approached Times Square, I knew there were going to be a lot more people there than there were on Broadway. We stopped for a second to stretch (and for me to catch my breath!) and when I looked up, I said to Ron, “This is crazy!” I was getting overwhelmed and tired, my breathing was off, and as I was getting ready to start back up again, I remembered something that my old pastor said, “God doesn’t call those who are able, and He enables those He calls”. I knew that no matter how tired I got, I had to keep going. All I could think of was how tired the children in Africa must be of being used and abused sexually on a daily basis. Knowing that these children (some as young as eight years old) are being sexually abused on a daily basis with nowhere to run made me realize so much about how I take things for granted, even things like running. Usually I run to stay active and be healthy, but on August 16, I ran for so much more. I ran for these children to someday have freedom from the horrendous lifestyle that they are forced to live in. So we pressed on.
We ran through Times Square and I felt like a rock star. People were cheering “Dribble the World” and “Dribble between your legs!” I would just smile and wave as Ron shouted, “Dribbletheworld.com!” to anyone who was willing to hear him. We made it to “the turn” on the West Side Highway, and I saw my family jumping up and down screaming my name at the top of their lungs! They were going bananas! It was hilarious. Seeing them helped me to not focus on the heat and they were a huge encouragement. One final crazy comment from a guy who was about my age who yelled, “Did you do that the whole time? That’s awesome! Call me sometime!” Ron and I were cracking up. Like all of the other runner’s highs that I had throughout the morning, this one wore off too. With around two miles to go, the heat was killing me, and I was huffing; but who came to my rescue? More bright green dribbletheworld.com t-shirts! Ron and I pushed on, and he kept me going all the way to the 13-mile marker.
By this time, we were nearing Ground Zero/Battery Park and only had 800 km to go. I was tired, worn out, and knew that we were almost finished. 400 km left. At this point, Ron exited from the race and told me that he and the rest of our group would meet me at the finish line. Adrenaline kicked in full force now. There were the same amount of people at the finish line that there were in Times Square. I knew that now was the time to put what I had read the night before in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 into play:
24Do 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. 25Everyone 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. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others; I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
I was tired, but running as fast as I could at that point. Finishing was only feet away, and I could hear the announcer calling out runner’s names as they were walking, or jogging across the finish line. So down to the final stretch and across the finish line I ran and he excitedly told everyone, “Here comes number 13304, and she is dribbling a basketball! Her shirt says ‘dribbletheworld.com’, I’m guessing that’s who she’s running with, and she is traveling across the finish line. Way to multi-task number 13304. We congratulate you”. I had made it! I have to admit, hearing the announcer wasn’t what made me smile at the end of the race. It wasn’t the fact that I knew that the race was over and I could finally sit down (which I was excited to do!).
It was knowing that my desire to please the Lord that day by running as a part of Dribble the World put a smile on the face of God, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.