I reminded the boys about their quest to run a half marathon last Fall.
It started during our summer runs...
In the beginning, the boys were exhausted after only a couple of miles each time. After a few bad runs, we decided to kneel together beforehand to ask God to help us to do our best and to be strong. There was such a significant change in their mental attitudes that the boys developed a testimony quickly of the value of prayer even in running. They never ran without a prayer. For weeks we did a 3 mile loop. Mariah biked, while the older boys and I ran the distance. I pushed Jayden and Juliana in the double-jogger stroller- they had a blast too.
After a while, the boys said they wanted to run a marathon. I suggested they start off with a half-marathon first which is 13.1 miles. I searched the internet for a race that would allow such young children to participate, and we finally found one at Mackinac Island in Michigan on October 27th, 2012- which would fall one day after Jordan's 7th birthday.
I wasn't positive at first if Jordan (age 6 at the time of training) would be able to handle such a long run. I spoke with experts and bought the very best shoes for the boys. The experts I spoke with suggested that Africans run thousands of miles through their childhood; so as long as we trained well, he would be ok.
We started our training schedule which included our long runs on Saturdays. I told Jordan that if he could do this 1st long run, I knew he could do others, and I wouldn't let him quit. (Unless he was injured of course.)
The kids trained and cross-trained in the heat, cold, and rain. They were determined. Jordan's little legs were shorter than his brothers', so my heart broke watching him work so hard. I knew he was developing a strong mind along with his strong body.
Race day came, and the kids were ecstatic!!
They started the morning reading their scriptures...
After reading their scriptures, they took some quiet time to ponder their race. They stood on the balcony of our hotel room watching the ferries which would soon be taking them to Mackinac Island.
...but young boys can only ponder for so long before they have to let the crazy out!! :-)
It was time to board the ferry! There are absolutely no cars allowed on Mackinac island, so everyone takes a ferry to get there! People live on the island, but they travel by horses, buggies, or bikes! We knew this would be a memorable place to run.
After arriving, we said our prayer asking God to keep us strong and to help us to do our very best, and then we knew we were ready!!!
The race began, and WE WERE PUMPED!!!!
Because the boys wore their football jerseys with "Mills," across their backs, everybody cheered for the Mills boys! People on the sidelines and their fellow runners all couldn't believe that they were planning on running the entire race!
Their presence alone inspired other runners that were a bit nervous about the run. Everybody that ran past them both encouraged them and congratulated them for their courage. I taught the boys to congratulate those who were passing them as well. For several miles, they ran with smiles on their faces.
The route took us half-way around the island and then cut through the center of the island. It was hard to know when we would ever be done because the trails led up and down steep hills and wound through thick forests. We stopped only a few times to take pictures, to drink gatorade, and to walk for a total of only a few minutes the entire race!
At around mile 7, Jordan and Tyson began to get really tired. To take the younger boys' minds off the pain and exhaustion, we talked about the things that made us happy and thankful. That helped for a couple of miles; but at around mile 9, both Jordan and Tyson hit complete exhaustion. I took turns holding each of their hands and pulling them up the hills.
...but then they felt like they just couldn't keep going. Abe called, and I had him talk to the boys. They cried, ran, and talked to Daddy all at the same time. He gave them great encouragement letting them know how courageous they were. He told them of all the prayers being offered up on their behalf. Jackson hardly spoke a word... just quietly ran.
We all regained confidence after the phone call. The poor boys' feet hurt, and their muscles hurt... but they kept running!! We descended out of the forest reaching the marker that said we were only 2 miles away. Then the marker finally came for our final mile stretch to the finish line. We ran along the shore of Lake Huron. We could hear the cheers in the distance, so we knew we were coming closer.
We pulled our strength together and ran in a line holding hands. Jackson still felt strong, so he took Jordan's hand. I took Jordan's other hand and Tyson's hand as well. Jackson and I pulled their hands harder. I could feel Jordan resisting just a bit, and I cried knowing his pain would soon be over. I also cried feeling so proud of my little boys.
They lied on the ground for quite some time while people brought them drinks and cookies. After a while, we finally made our way to the postings to find out our time. When we arrived, people treated the boys as if they were famous. At first they would just glance at them, and then they would take a 2nd look and exclaim, "Oh you're the Mills Boys!!! You're amazing!!" We even over-heard somebody talking on the phone to their family about them. They felt great about their accomplishment.
They finished the race in 2hrs and 25 minutes which averages to about 11 minute miles!!
I had told them that they would probably be really sore the next day. Well, the next day came, and they weren't even sore one bit- they were actually more active than I would have liked them to be. :-) Jordan explained why they weren't sore: "I was worried about being sore today, so I said a prayer." Wow! I loved his simple faith.
Running a half marathon was not an easy dream to achieve for these little boys in any stretch of the imagination. They trained for months, shed tears, felt physical pain, and fought through mental exhaustion. Yet, they still chose to finish the race just as committed as when they had started the race.
They have a plaque in their room that reads, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13
Christ was their partner as they trained and as they raced. They chose strength in Christ.
I wanted to document this experience for my boys to remember the miracle of what they had done. My hope is that they will never doubt that they can do hard things. As I pondered and wrote, I discovered yet another miracle...
Christ did not take their pain away as they ran. Overcoming and fighting through the pain was part of their accomplishment. He strengthened them by providing them with an older brother who literally pulled them through the finish line. Jackson's strength meant more to his brothers than my strength. I have already run a marathon before, but Jackson was experiencing this challenge just as they were. What would have happened if their older brother had given up? He didn't... and neither did they. They achieved their dream.