Anything is possible with God, but nothing is possible without God.
This is what was going through my head in the days leading up to my 24 hour Run For Thailand.
On July 20-21 I joined 4 other runners from across Thailand in a quest to run for 24 hours on a 3.7 Kilometer loop around a reservoir in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We had other runners join us during parts of the run for their own 6 and 12 hour divisions. We thoroughly enjoyed having their camaraderie.
In the weeks and months leading up to the race I probably spent more time planning out and preparing what I was going to eat and think about during the race than I did actually running. It also didn’t help that I was injured for about 5 months with a weird leg pain that didn’t heal until less than a month before the race. So, mentally I was prepared for this race but physically….far from ready. So, with a challenge to memorize Psalm 29 during the race and recite it within 5 minutes of finishing, I went into the race with the intentions of having fun, making friends, spending time talking with God and praying, memorizing scripture, and running as far and for as long as my body would allow.
I am continually aware that I am nothing without God, but I came to a new realization of this during the race when I was super tired, soaking wet, had painful blisters on 2 toes on each foot, found all of my gear completely soaked, food not being appetizing and difficult to force down…. oh,and it was only 2 hours into the race.
The first few hours were a lot of fun. Many people were there; runners, volunteers, friends, and spectators. Besides us 5 running the 24 hour race, there was one running for 12 hours, 3 running for 6 hours, and 3 kids running for 3 hours all starting at 6pm. At midnight another 6 hour runner started and at 6am nine friends of mine, girls from IGO (the Mennonite school/church/English Center) I live next door to, started their 6 hour run. I was especially excited for them because it was their first race (for all of them I think) and definitely the longest they have ever ran/walked. I was glad to have their company. One of the girls even completed her first marathon distance and ended up running 27 miles! So proud of her!
Anyways, during these last hours of daylight there were many people hanging out at the food zone (where tents were set up, food was abundant, the giant race clocked glowed in glory, and our lap marking banner hung magnificently). Every time I ran by and stopped in for a quick bite to eat I really wanted to stay and chat, but I had to keep running. Over the next couple laps it got dark and all the spectators vanished into the night, leaving us few folks running silently in the darkness of the night while rain continued to pour down on us. Around 9 or 10pm a friend I just met a week prior (my new masseuse!) showed up to cheer me on. She had given me a couple pre-race massages in the week before the race to get limbered up. I mentioned the race to her but didn’t actually think she would come. She is a Buddhist Thai with plenty of “different” beliefs. Every time I go to see her she opens up more to me about her life, beliefs, problems, and desires. We discuss what she believes, even when I don’t understand all of it exactly, and I share with her about Christianity and what I believe. It was exciting the first time I got to tell her who Jesus is and what he did. She had no clue who he was. She thought Buddha and my God live together in Heaven. I tell her about my life, my relationship with Amanda, our waiting till the wedding to kiss, my striving for purity throughout my entire life and waiting till I’m married to have sex, and my absolute promise to Amanda (and God) to always remain faithful to her and to never leave her or pursue another woman. This was all new to my friend because many Thai males seek relationships outside their marriage. It’s pretty much expected. So, I gave her a glimpse of hope and a look at a different kind of life. One of peace, joy, and love in pursuing righteousness and seeking after the one true God.
She didn’t massage me at the race or run with me, but she did hang out for over an hour talking with the volunteers and giving them advice on how to treat their various ailments. I pray God continues to open doors with her and shed his light through me into her life.
Around 1:30 am my German friend Marian showed up with a grilled chicken, coconut, and his running shoes. The chicken was delicious, the coconut was rotten (sad day…), and the 2 hours of running with him were fantastic!
After he left, the hours seemed soooo long as I waited for the sunrise and the reviving energy that comes with a new day. Running in the night gets pretty lonely. The few runners left on the course were spread out so we didn’t see each other much, and even the late night fishermen had left. Around 5am the local Thai rice farmers and fishermen started showing up, so that was nice to have something new to look at. During the night, the lights from the city reflected off the clouds, forming a dull light just bright enough for us to run without our headlamps on. It was nice. I did use mine occasionally to read my Psalm 29 flashcards and notes from Amanda. She made me a note to read for every lap of the race. In addition to the numerous sweet messages and Bible verses she wrote for me, she also had other friends of mine write encouraging messages. There were even a handful of messages from long-time friends of mine sharing how I have impacted their lives. Not sure if it was the heaviness of these notes and the unworthiness I felt to have such nice and incredible things said about me and the difference I have made in their lives, specifically how I spurred them closer to Christ, or the weariness and fatigue I was feeling from running for so many hours, but 3 different times during the race while I was reading these notes I started crying. Luckily no one was around and by the time I got to the checkpoint I was able to wipe away the tears so that it just looked like it was from the rain. Not sure if I’ve ever felt as loved, cared for, prayed for, supported, and encouraged in all my life. It made me truly happy to know that so many people saw the light of Christ in me. Sometimes I forget people are watching. But they always are. All of us. If we say we are Christ-followers, then people should see Christ in every aspect of our lives. So, thank you to everyone who has ever written me a note of encouragement.
At 6am the 9 girls from IGO showed up full of life and energy that the rest of us were lacking due to a long night of running and no sleep. Since a new day was starting, I decided to change out of my wet shorts that I’d been running in for the last 12 hours. At this point I’d already changed my shirt once, and then took it off soon after because the second shirt was also wet and was rubbing me raw. I also had changed my shorts once and shoes 3 times already. As I ran the course watching the beautiful sunrise over the lake, I chatted with my friends and watched tons of cyclists, triathletes, runners, swimmers, and guys spear-fishing. Running in the morning was great because of the cloud-cover and cool weather.
Around mile 55 the arch of my right foot started hurting really badly…to the point of having to stop in the middle of a lap and massage it. I finished the lap and took about a 10 minute break to really massage my arch and stretch my legs. I wrapped my foot up in tape to help the muscle, changed my socks and shoes (again), and took off. The treatment helped quite a bit, but it still hurt the rest of the race and I had to stop to stretch and massage it several more times.
The 9 IGO girls finished their race at noon. They all did spectacular! Some of the volunteers that had gone home to get some sleep during the night returned in the afternoon. A few volunteers stayed at the race the entire time and tried to sleep for a couple hours in tents. We had amazing volunteers, especially the Hannah family and their friends who worked tirelessly all night and day cheering us on and keeping us fed.
As the hours rolled on we were all calculating in our heads the exact pace we needed to run to finish 100 miles. One of the 24 hour runners had to drop out during the night due to a foot injury and then another had to drop with only 7 laps left to reach her 100 mile target. She had severe tendonitis in her foot causing severe swelling and pain to the point of not being able to stand or put any weight on it. The three of us left pushed on, slowly but surely.
Mid-afternoon P Doi, Thip (our new worker), and 7 of the kids from the center showed up to cheer me on. Their faces were priceless when they first saw me run in to the aid station. They looked shocked and scared to see me so tired and worn out. They’ve probably never seen me look tired, even after doing a couple 10k races with me. But, after running for 20 hours, I’m sure I looked pretty wiped. P Doi had biked to the race the night before to see us start and had run a lap with us, so he saw the drastic change in our bodies and the toll all the hours had taken on us. The kids, all but one in flip-flops, ran 2 laps with me. Only one of the boys was able to keep up with me. It was so nice to see them and have them run and cheer me on. They left with about 5 laps left.
With only a handful of laps to go, I was feeling drained but hopeful in reaching my 100 mile goal, that is until I almost got hit by an arrow….twice. I heard the first one come so close that I could almost feel the air from it as it whizzed by me. The second came about 5 seconds later. I knew there were lots of people fishing with cross-bows, but I do not look like a fish and I was in the opposite direction of the water. I was scared they were intentionally aiming for me. An arrow could end my race, or worse, my life. When I reached the aid station I told the crew and had them check it out. Turns out there were 3 guys seen driving away from that spot soon after I passed. They were all carrying crossbows and looked drunk.
My friend Orlando showed up with some Mangosteen and juice for me. He ran a lap with me and kept me going. At this point I could barely stomach anything, but I forced myself to eat some fruit and some gels each lap to maintain some energy. We saw the daughter of the prince out mudding in a giant truck. There were tons of police there for protection. They looked at us funny as we ran by lap after lap, but then they started cheering us on. Another friend, Jason, ran with me for 2 laps, and then his wife took over to run/walk the last lap with me. Those last few laps were tough and I got slower and slower, but I kept an eye on my watch and made sure I would finish on time. One of the other runners, K, and I finished together. It was my 44th lap and his 42nd. We were done! The last runner left, Karl, finished his 40th lap and joined us for victory pictures. After reciting Psalm 29 with a half-functioning brain and taking some pictures, my body completely shut down. I had to lay down as I started getting over-heated. Ice packs on my face and chest and I was still hot. Then my body started to shake for a couple minutes. I had to have help standing up and walking to the car.
I stayed with some friends that night because I was in no shape to climb 3 flights of stairs to my apartment by myself. They took care of me so well. I felt horrible all night, but managed to eat some oatmeal, almonds, and peanuts, and sip on some salty water. I finally fell asleep around 1am. I felt sooo much better the next day. I met up with a bunch of the other runners for lunch at an all-you-can eat Vegetarian restaurant. It was delicious and I ate a lot!
All in all, it was a wonderful race with wonderful people! God spoke to me in huge ways and taught/revealed many new things to me. Everyone had a great time and we are looking forward to next year!
If you would like to help Amanda and I get back to Thailand to continue our ministry here, please consider donating to help pay for our plane tickets.
Just click here: https://ventureexpeditions.missionsconnex.com/BrianElliot
Or, if you would rather use paypal, let me know and I will give you the info.
Videos for you to check out!
%%%Special Thanks To: God for being me motivation and strength through the race and for giving me purpose, Amanda my incredible fiance for loving and supporting me and writing me all those notes, Everyone who prayed for me and donated to help Amanda and I fly back to continue ministering to the people of Thailand, Mike for being my Olympic Motorbike Escort to the race, Everyone who came to cheer me on at the run, all the friends who ran with me ( P Doi, Marian, Jason, Corina, Orlando, All the Kids from Ban Pong and Thip), All the amazing volunteers (Especially the Hannah Family and their friends, and Ron), and an especially HUGE thanks to the Reimer family for taking care of me post-run and making sure I stayed alive through that first night by letting me stay at their house and have a slumber party! Everyone’s support and encouragement was amazing and truly truly appreciated!%%%