“He needs me to see, and I need him to help me train and push me.”
Finish and finish strong. That’s how Bill Allen (78) and his friend, Mike Larson, finished the Kiawah Island marathon in South Carolina last December. They also finished it together.
Bill, a minister at South Fork Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is an experienced marathon runner. He has crossed the marathon finish line many times, but never tethered to another runner.
His friend, Mike, has been losing his eyesight due to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. But that didn’t keep Mike from his goal to run a marathon … and to ask for help.
He asked Bill to be his eyes.
Soon, the pair tied a bungee cord to each of their wrists, and off they went. Bill runs on the curb to watch for holes, rocks or other potential footfalls, and Mike runs on the street. Through neighborhoods and roadsides, they started logging training miles in preparation for the big race, 26.2 miles.
“I don’t know if you call it a bucket list, we’ll just call it a vision list,” Larson told the Winston-Salem Journal. “I have just enough vision where I’m not completely useless right now. Plus, I just like the fact that I can say that I’ve done it.”
And he did. The day of the race was rainy and cold, but Mike and Bill took off at a good pace, until Mike’s knee injury and searing pain slowed them down. But they didn’t stop.
Mike walked, limped and jogged until Bill told him he could see the finish line. Then they started running again, through the finish line with a cheering crowd and a very respectable time of under five hours.
Theirs is an inspiring story of perseverance.
“He needs me to see, and I need him to help me train and push me,” Bill said.
The experience personifies our faith walk.
“It’s a reminder we’re in this together, especially as Christians,” said Bill, who referenced Hebrews 3:13, which tells us to encourage one another daily. “We might not be tied together with a bungee cord, but we are still connected.”
Bill says the same is true for Oklahoma Christian. He says, “Don’t cut the cords. Keep tethered to OC and all of the relationships and experiences we had.” In Bill’s case, he fondly remembers being in the late Dr. Raymond Kelcy’s class, calling him the “dean of Church of Christ preachers.”
He’ll also never forget being in Dr. Jim Wilson’s classes.
“He was one of the best teachers I ever had. He was genuine and fun and very good in his field,” Bill said.
Bill and his wife Joyce also receive birthday cards from their friend Bob Rowley, and Christmas cards from Dr. Lynn and Joy McMillon.
Since the marathon, Mike’s knee is healing and the pair plans to continue running together. Though both guys are humble about the attention their partnership has stirred, they are pleased that it’s started a bit of a fitness craze and interest in running at South Fork and in their community.
Whether pounding the pavement, or in our Christian lives, Bill and Mike inspire all of us “to run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” (Heb 12:1).
By Dawn Shelton