From 1979 to 1985 we lived in Hong Kong pastoring an English speaking church that met in the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital. During our time there I got heavily involved in the running community and ran in many marathons in Hong Kong, Macau, and Shanghai. Those were great years filled with deep friendships that formed. When we put on just the basic running gear, all ethnic and professional divisions disappeared, and we were just brothers and sisters in an awesome bond.
In 1983 I wanted to start a Health Education Department at the hospital and I needed to raise funds to do that. I dreamed up an idea (probably while high on endorphins) where I would engage corporations who would sponsor me as I ran for 24 hours. Their donations were based on the requirement that I would complete at least 100 miles.
I was able to get the entire Jubilee Sports Centre, where Olympic athletes trained, as a venue for this first event. The track at Jubilee had a rubberized asphalt surface which I discovered too late was not ideal for my needs.
I began the run at 8:00 PM in order to put the dark hours at the beginning, rather than the end. Everything was set. I had support people to keep track of the distance and help with food and whatever else I might need. As this was my first effort, I really didn’t know what that would include. I was required to have a physician on site as well to monitor my physical well being.
The run began well. I completed the first marathon distance in three-and-a-half hours, which was probably too fast, but I felt good. Shortly after midnight a winter monsoon struck and the wind and rain made things really uncomfortable. I began to struggle with hypothermia as I ran through the hours past midnight and toward dawn. After completing 75 miles I was pretty pathetic looking and had stress fractures in both feet. The track surface did not allow me to shuffle at all and that proved to be a big problem. I went into the locker room in the early afternoon and the team helped me lay down on a table where they covered me with blankets. I was shaking badly, and no matter how many blankets they put on me, I could not stop the shaking. The doctor said that I was done and the event would be stopped. I begged him to wait just a bit longer.
It was then that one of my close running buddies, who was a crusty old sailor with language to match, came in and told them to remove all the blankets and my sweatsuit. They stripped me down to my underwear and he did the same and then he climbed up on the table and laid down next to me, wrapping me in his arms. I said, “What in the world are you doing?” His reply was simply, “Shut up and lay still!”
It didn’t take long for my shaking to stop and my core temperature to rise. After about 15 minutes I was sitting up and actually smiling. I began to gingerly walk around the room and I asked the doctor to let me see if I could go on. He reluctantly agreed and I was able to limp another 28 miles before the 8:00 PM finish, and reach the necessary goal of completing 100+ miles.
I will never forget that simple act of selfless kindness that was given to me. There is one more quote that really sums up what was given to me that day.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? …
In the following two years I was able to repeat this event using the Hong Kong Government Stadium, which has a cinder track that did allow me to shuffle as needed in the late hours of the run. I completed 105 miles the second time and 114 miles in the final event. Each time I was able to raise over US$20,000 to fund the Health Education Department at our hospital. That benefitted so many people, but it was a simple act of kindness that helped me break through a wall.
Marvin Wray writes from Northern California.© 2017 - 2019 When People Are Kind. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.