March 9, 2016 Edition

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Householder runs for a reason,
with goal to finish the race

John Householder of Walnut Ridge participates in the "Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans" marathon, which took runners through Jackson Square in the French Quarter, above ground cemeteries and by other notable New Orleans landmarks.

John Householder
Guest Writer

(Editor's note: John Householder of Walnut Ridge has written about the experience of running in a marathon in New Orleans on Feb. 28. John's wife, Deana, accompanied him to New Orleans. He was part of a St. Jude's Hero team that raised $168,000 through this event.)

THE RACE: Deana and I traveled to NOLA (New Orleans, La.) for the weekend to participate in the Rock 'n' Roll series marathon. We arrived Friday and spent the evening with my cousin and his wife from Broken Arrow, Okla., eating dinner and enjoying beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde along the Mississippi River.

Saturday provided awesome weather for touring downtown NOLA. We learned a lot of history about a very interesting and culturally diverse city and had dinner at a restaurant on the famous Magazine Street, but we knew why we were there.

Sunday morning was race day! More than 23,000 marathoners and half-marathoners and thousands more 10K runners participated. It was crowded!

People were everywhere trying to check bags, pin on bibs, stretch their legs, and some of the newbies to racing were just running around trying to guess at what to do. I was able to meet Sunday morning before the race with Team 413 for prayer and devotion, and then for a St. Jude's Hero picture at the starting line before the race began.

Race time was 7:30 a.m., I was in corral 7, and it was a wave start, which means runners in different corrals start 60 to 90 seconds behind one another. Your actual start time doesn't commence until you cross the start line. My start time was 7:47.

So, how do the race officials know when you started? Every runner has a race chip or timer. The chip is sometimes attached to your race bib or is a device you wear on your shoe, and it not only keeps track of your time, but also verifies that a runner actually crossed certain points on the course. It keeps runners honest in case you just so happen to veer off the course to the nearest Uber pickup. A full marathon is 26.2 miles, which means a half-marathon is 13.1 miles, and a 10K is 6.2 miles.

Deana is not only a big supporter but a vital part of every race. She cheers me on along the course, takes pictures (not always of my best side) and provides necessary logistics along the way, such as drinks and food, and an opportunity to drop items to her that I no longer need.

Needless to say, if you have ever been to NOLA, the course was flat. There are virtually no hills, and only 15 feet in elevation, which helps, but the day was sunny and warm.

Heat plays a factor in endurance races. You won't see many marathons or long races in the south in the summer. Heat stroke and the effect of severe dehydration are real. So in light of the temperature, it is not how fast you go; it's that you go!

Notable phrase for this race: "I would rather be exhausted from success, than rested from complacency." And I was tired and exhausted, with a finish time of 4:26:32, a full 30 minutes longer than my last marathon. Not all of that was from exhaustion though.

There were so many runners, many more than I have seen before, whose legs were either seized or bodies simply depleted. This typically occurs between miles 20 and 22. One runner at mile 21 was taken off the course in an ambulance due to convulsions. The last six miles can be a bit grueling.

In a marathon, you can disqualify a runner if you physically help them advance. Simply putting your arm around them and carrying them in any way will cause disqualification. The best you can do is talk, encourage and give some instruction on how to finish the race. In order to do this though, you have to be willing to give up your race time to stop and help someone else. I've been helped as a runner, and I've helped struggling runners. I would gladly do it again.

RUN FOR A REASON: I participated in the NOLA marathon as a St. Jude's Hero, raising funds for the children and families of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This is the second full marathon event that I have completed for St. Jude's and my fourth marathon overall.

It gives me joy running and racing for the kids and families of St. Jude's. For me it's a race, and for them it's a battle. I choose my races, though the kids and families at St. Jude's battling childhood cancer didn't choose their fight. It gives them hope knowing that someone else cares enough to lace up a pair of shoes to train and compete in a race, to raise money, to run "in honor" of kids who are fighting cancer or "in memory" of those who battled to the end.

The children at St. Jude's are from all over the nation and countries worldwide and are fighting some of the most aggressive cases of childhood cancer. The great news is the survival rates have increased from 20 percent in 1962 to over 80 percent today, and because of donors and sponsors, no family at St. Jude's hospital ever pays for anything.

The doctors and nurses at St. Jude's hospital won't stop until no child dies from cancer. That sentiment echoes with endurance runners like myself, you don't stop until you finish your race. I have run thousands of miles over the past several years, and the most rewarding miles are those run for someone else.

WHY I RUN (WIR): I have run all over the nation: in various cities and towns, in different kinds of weather and climates, in the sun, in the rain, in the snow and yes wind! We have lots of wind where we live! I've run to the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean (Unlike Forest Gump, I actually started closer to my destination.), along the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.

I've run through valleys and over hills and mountains, beaches, and trails and roads of all kinds. I've run across bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge in California, the Memorial Bridge in D.C. and even the old Black River Bridge in Black Rock that was just recently replaced. (It was dangerous, but one of my favorites!) I've run the National Mall from the Nation's Capital building, past the Washington Monument and WWII Memorial to the foot of President Lincoln at his Memorial.

No matter where I go, I enjoy taking my running gear and going for a run. Nothing gives me more joy than enjoying God's great creation. It is spectacular! It is not just in sunsets and sunrises, tall trees or vast bodies of water, but it is also in the faces and souls of people I get to meet.

Some people I meet are not always cheerful and pleasant, especially at five or six in the morning. But we are from the south, from a small town in Arkansas, where everybody says "hello" or "good morning."

I never know what lies in my path or what opportunity I will have to help or encourage someone else. Whether it's giving hope to the kids and families of St. Jude's or encouragement to a fellow runner, exhausted, cramping and wanting to quit, thinking they can't finish the race, I am looking to be an inspiration.

I truly believe that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, whether I accomplish all that He has for me is unknown, but I can only hope that what I do today will make a difference in someone else's life! Acts 20:24 "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace."

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