My heart beat faster and faster with each passing moment. A growing sense of relief, satisfaction and determination formed as familiar landmarks became visible and the journey neared the end. With each push of the peddle, the bike increased in speed, bringing the finish line closer, closer, closer. The aching of muscles, though strong just minutes before, began to vanish as adrenaline took over. And as the finish line was crossed, a smile formed. It was finished.
One hundred miles had been covered, taking in sights never before seen along roads most certainly never designed for a self-propelled journey. After the traditional photos by well known landmarks, the start had been easy. It had felt so satisfying to push the pedal for the first time knowing that the challenge was about to start. In those early hours, there had even been moments where we had beaten speed records, suspecting that time would fly and the end would be reached beating all expectations.
What we hadn’t bargained for was the hills. Every time we thought it was over, Cornwall provided yet another. The two of us had enthusiastically conquered the first few, refusing to be beaten so early on. But they wore us down. If it wasn’t for the fear of letting down the other, I suspect we would have pushed our bikes up most of them. But neither of us wanted to be the one to fail, and so we persevered.
My muscles cringe as I remember the big one. It must have been around 75 miles in. It was the sort of hill that had warning signs attached; the sort that had escape lanes for drivers unwittingly caught out by the unusually steep nature. Our legs were already feeling the strain of travelling so far without decent rest. Our water and food reserves were running low. And the sun, originally considered a blessing, was now turning up the heat. Those last few pushes were more than hard; they were near impossible.
But we made it.
Side by side, encouraging each other, we made it.
And the downhill that followed, though shorter than we’d hoped, was exhilarating! The cool feel of the air on our hot skin brought instant relief. But even that feeling was nothing compared to crossing the finish line. One hundred miles. We had done it. We had reached our goal. And the celebration – friends and family and random people who’d just turned up to cheer us over the final line – was totally worth it. Even more enjoyable (possibly) was the long soak in the bath, relieving aching muscles and restoring our bodies to their former, clean state.
As I watch friends complete a similar challenge 22 years later, every memory comes back as though it were yesterday, including the overnight hospitality provided by people we had never met. And as I reflect, I realise that a life of faith is just like that journey:
When we start out, it feels amazing. The exhilaration of new faith, of renewed hope, is strong and provides new purpose. At times we run before we can walk, and tire ourselves out, but Father God teaches us. Never does He give us more than we can cope with, and He is there with us every step of the way. When the hills come, and life gets hard, Father God is cheering us on, encouraging constantly and reminding us of the smaller training hills we’ve already beaten.
And when we cross the finish lines, no matter what the journey entailed, He celebrates. He embraces us. He knows us and, despite any mistakes on the route, He loves us deeply.
May our adventure continue for many years to come.
Bring. It. On.
Oh, and if you feel like donating to those people I mentioned that have just completed their challenge, you can find out more by visiting: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/joe-libby?utm_id=66&utm_term=96Q6wG228