When called up to serve, one should serve, especially, when no notice is given. Today’s blog is about one such instance.
This year, I am competing in only 4 duathlons: 1 regional, 2 national championships and one world championship. My training and racing is split between 6 running events, 10 cycling events, scouting, running a non-profit, parenting and being a husband-not in any order.
This first duathlon of the year was the Outerbanks Duathlon, in Corolla, NC. The thin strip of land on the Eastern edge of NC that represented our cycling and running surfaces had ocean both to our left and to our right. Unlike most days in the Outerbanks, race day was near windless, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The temps at race start were in the 50s, meaning fast times for all competitors.
Before these sanctioned events, there is a time for announcements, the playing and singing of the National Anthem and a prayer for the athletes. Despite the trend of a few citizens in this country, no one took a knee in protest of anything; showing that the nation is not, in fact, falling apart with anti-American sentiment as the media depicts. Hands on hearts and mouths singing were everywhere as we anxiously awaited the starting gun.
Immediately after the National Anthem, the race director lifted the microphone and said, “and now, for a moment of prayer for the athletes, here is Jeff Gaura,” and he handed me the microphone.
I had no heads up. It would have been tempting to hesitate or even lift the mic to my mouth and say, “really, dude? Do I look like Billy Graham today?” I most likely could have made a moment of humor out of the circumstance, but we are talking about communication with the Eternal, in public, and that would be equally inappropriate as flag burning or the like. This moment required my best.
Although I can’t tell you exactly what I said, here is how I remember it.
“Let us be reverent and remove our hats as we pray to the Lord. Heavenly Father, thank you for the effort from all of those who made this event happen, especially from the sponsors and volunteers. Without their effort, we would not be able to enjoy this day as we are about to. I want to thank you for giving us the bodies and the discipline to prepare for and perform this act of running and cycling to our utmost, as most people not just in the United States but in the world, do not have the ability to undertake and finish what we are about to do. Regardless of the outcome, thank you for our success in the effort. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
I completed and did well in the event, having the fastest overall 2nd run and winning my age group by several minutes. Immediately after having a quick drink at the finish line, I approached the race director and asked him what made him think to have me lead everyone in prayer. He said he remembered watching me pray at this event last year, and he knew that I was a praying man.
You just never know who is watching you, and what they will remember. If I am found guilty of being a praying man, I accept the label and any consequences therein attached.