Marathon in Mexico

    “Marathon in Mexico,” Tambuli, Sept. 1988, 33

    Marathon in Mexico

    I would like to share an experience and a lesson I will never forget.

    A couple of years ago, it was announced that a seventeen kilometer “marathon” would be held between the nearby cities of Jaltocan and Huejutla, Mexico. A month before the race, my seventy-two-year-old husband, Leon*, surprised me by saying, “I’m going to test myself by running a few kilometers, and if I do all right I’m going to enter the race.”

    So early one morning he challenged himself to run a set distance. He returned successful. The route he had taken was downhill, and it was easy. However, I reminded him that the marathon route was mostly uphill. But, encouraged by the family, my husband decided he would run. Our sons even bought him a pair of good running shoes, and one of them also entered the marathon.

    The day of the race arrived, November 26. With the exception of my husband and our thirty-eight-year-old son, all the marathon participants were in their early twenties. From the start, my husband set a steady running pace for himself. My daughter-in-law and I followed in a car to give water to our husbands every two or three kilometers. When my husband had completed ten kilometers, I told him, “Old man, stop and rest for a while like the others are doing.” He answered, “No, I’m not going to stop because if I do I’ll not make it to the finish line.” And he continued at his same steady pace.

    There were many spectators along the route, and they were surprised when they saw a seventy-two-year-old man running by. When my husband had completed fifteen kilometers, I offered a silent prayer, asking the Lord to give Leon strength to finish the race. One of my grandsons cheered him on saying, “You’re doing great grandpa. You have only two kilometers to go.” His children and grandchildren and all the people were cheering for him.

    Of the thirty-two runners who started the marathon, only six had the stamina to complete it, including Leon and our son. The young man who took first place made it in one hour and fifteen minutes. My husband was the last one to cross the finish line, and our son was the next-to-last.

    When Leon arrived at the end of the route, children applauded and cheered: “Grandpa, grandpa, rah! rah! rah!” The mayor of the city embraced him, fireworks and rockets were set off, and a band played. It was announced that a great sportsman, seventy-two years old, had completed the marathon in two hours and fifteen minutes. Our children and I cried for joy. Leon kept only half of the prize money he received and donated the other half to public charities. His generosity, and his determination to participate to the end in the marathon, was a great example to his children.

    I began to think that, in a way, this is what life is—a race in which we must make a great effort to reach the goal. If we are successful, the angels will sing for joy, just as the children happily welcomed my husband. And just as the mayor hugged Leon, the Lord will receive us with pleasure and he will put his arm around us and say “Welcome, thou good and faithful servant.”

    Like the supporting crowd along the route of the marathon, Church leaders encourage us along life’s route, and help us to be of good cheer, and provide us with living water. The Brethren are prophets who say, “Have courage, be firm and do not get discouraged and, if you endure to the end, you will have eternal life.”

    • At the time of the marathon, Leon Perez was the president of the San Felipe Orizatlan, Branch, in the Mexico Mexico City North Mission.