This past Saturday I spent 2 hours volunteering at the Braves 5k at Turner Field. I’ve ran the Falcons 5k and the Hawks 5k so I wanted to complete the trifecta, but without having to pay. I’d never volunteered for a large race like this. They assigned me to be one of the monitors for the course. Basically I was there to warn people of potential traffic and to cheer them on for the final 1/2 mile of the race.
As I started yelling ‘good job’ , ‘not much farther’ , ‘finish strong’ – it was one of the most awkward things I’ve ever done. Standing on a random street corner with a caution sign, a neon green vest, and very little purpose other than being one of the last encouragers in this race. For the first 20 minutes or so I was thinking ‘why am I doing this?” If I had just left I’m not so sure anybody would have noticed.
As the race went on though, people were responding to my encouragement. You could see the struggle on some of their faces and the relief that they were only a 1/2 mile from the stadium. Many of them were thankful for that little bit of encouragement. I’m sure for a few of them it was their first 5k. I’m also sure that their legs were getting tired, knees were aching, and swear was pouring. When you are in that shape, any little bit of encouragement helps even from a stranger.
By the end of my time I was thankful that I was able to encourage 2000 runners in the race. I felt that I had played a role in their accomplishment. The Lord used it to remind me of the importance of encouragement. You never know when that seemingly small compliment might be what someone holds on to for the rest of the race!