On Monday, January 15th, 19 PTM students sleepily answered their 6am wake-up call. Over the loud speakers, Dr. Martin Luther King’s voice echoed through the gymnasium with those infamous words of power and unity. The previous night, a group of staff and students had gathered at St. Luke’s Community House to play games, eat food, and fellowship together, but unlike any ordinary sleepover, our students were preparing for a task that most people would not sign up for on their day off… A 5k.
For the past 5 months, students involved in our health and fitness program, PTM Life, had been meeting weekly, rain or shine, to focus on long distance running and learning the importance of having an attitude of perseverance to carry us through all that comes our way.
On the day of the race, you could still see leftover snow and ice on the ground from the weekend, but our students were prepared, with a cup of hot chocolate in their hands, and layers of clothes keeping them warm. We eagerly loaded the bus and headed to East Park Community Center for the 5K4MLK race put on each year by Barefoot Republic. Once there, students were paired with running buddies, some meeting for the first time, and some reuniting after a few weeks apart.
As we stood at the start line, we listened to our very own Dwight Johnson sing the national anthem loud enough for the whole city to hear. Excitement and nerves were in the air as the gun went off and we headed towards the downtown area. Not only was it a cold morning, but the course was hilly, making it feel more like a marathon. In the midst of any experience, it can be easy to focus on the negatives- too cold, too tired, or too hard, but somehow the kids pressed on.
With less than .1 miles remaining, the finish line suddenly appeared after a sharp left-hand turn. The sound of supporters cheering loudly, silenced the pain in our legs. Celebrations were all around as every single one of the students finished the race set before them, running with strength and courage. No matter their time or placement, you could see the pride each one had in the fact that they had overcome all the obstacles and completed their race. One of our students, Jakayla Morris, finished with an impressive time of 28 minutes and 30 seconds, placing 3rd in her age group. For a day that had the potential to be snowed out and cancelled altogether, I couldn’t help but think what sweet gift that God had allowed for each of our students to run their race.
“He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will fall and give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”