“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 (English Standard Version)
When the apostle Paul penned the above words to the church in Corinth, Greece, he mostly likely used running as an illustration for life, encouraging his Christian brothers and sisters to focus on things eternal and not the present.
On Nov. 10, though Enterprise State Community College students Taten Swanson and Adam Smith found a practical application for Paul’s teaching. In hopes of raising money for a mission trip to Haiti, the young men ran about 30 miles – overcoming several aches, pains and thoughts of quitting in the process.
In October, Swanson asked Smith to join him on a mission trip to perform medical and dentistry work in Haiti, a poor Caribbean country. In January, the duo will join up with seven others from a church in Minnesota – one Swanson’s grandparents attend.
But the duo needed at least $3,000 for the trip alone. Add in costs for hiking gear needed to traverse Haiti’s mountains and the necessary shots to travel to the county, and the costs were much higher than most college students can afford.
So, Smith and Swanson – who attend Bethany Baptist Church on County Road 533 -- brainstormed ways to raise the money. Swanson came up with the idea to run and collect donations for each mile ran.
“We didn’t have any idea, and then Taten said, ‘Let’s run (from the church) to the (Boll Weevil) circle and back,’ and I said, ‘OK, that’s eight miles.’ Then he said, ‘Let’s run around the circle,’ and I said, ‘OK, that’s 19 miles.’ A couple of days later, he called me and said, ‘Let’s run around the circle twice.’”
With the journey from Bethany to Boll Weevil Circle and back added in, the boys had just agreed to run about 30 miles.
“I figured we could get (people to donate) $3 a mile. That’s $90, and people would really give us $100,” Swanson said.
Thirty miles is 3.8 miles longer than a marathon, and marathoners often train long periods of time before entering any race. Despite only running 2 miles occasionally at the Enterprise Recreational Park, Smith and Swanson did not radically adjust their training regimens – maybe a byproduct of youthful exuberance and machismo.
Swanson mentioned “we didn’t do anything the day before the run,” and ate Ramen noodles to load up on carbohydrates in preparation for the run.
On the morning of the race, the duo met up at Bethany Baptist Church around 7 a.m. Smith and Swanson enlisted the help of friends Tyler Whitley and Jacob St. Germain to provide them with snacks – such as protein bars, bananas and apples – throughout the race.
Eating, though, would soon be the least of their concerns.
About the eighth mile of the journey, Smith felt a muscle pull in his hip area. Swanson also began to feel pain – in one of his knees and in his feet, specifically.
“We were picking up cotton on the sides of the road and stuffing it in our shoes,” he said.
“… which didn’t work 20 minutes afterward because of the seeds,” Smith added.
At about the 15th mile, the boys had completed one trip around the circle. They collapsed on some pavement off the side of the intersection of Boll Weevil Circle and Alabama Highway 134 and contemplated cutting the journey short by 11 miles.
The New Brockton High School graduates, though, received motivation and inspiration from a variety of sources. They sang praise and worship songs to further their journey, plus used a little self-motivation to initiate the second trip around Boll Weevil Circle.
“We said we were going to do it,” Smith said. “So many people … told us we couldn’t do it.”
Nearing the completion of 11 hours on the journey, the duo finally crossed the finish line at Bethany Baptist Church. Youth and Music Minister Gunter Akridge rewarded the boys with a steak dinner for their perseverance.
As of Nov. 16, the run generated $500 for their mission trip. Swanson said more money should be coming in for their efforts.
Both said their faith in God was strengthened through the run.
“I am amazed how quickly I healed up. When I work out, I’m sore for a week,” he said. “There’s no other explanation (but God) on how we finished (the race).”
Swanson and Smith do urge people to train correctly before attempting an endeavor such as a 30-mile run.
“Work your way up,” Smith said.
To donate to Smith’s and Swanson’s trip, call Bethany Baptist Church at 894-2344 or Akridge at 308-8137.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” – 2 Timothy 4:4 (ESV)
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