1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Training time offers praying time, and the connection to God's creation is for many of us a lifeline. Over the course of four months of training, mileage and endurance levels must increase, and with that come greater physical, mental, and spiritual fitness. Every day, I give thanks for my good health and the ability to involve others in supporting LLS. I know that it could all change tomorrow. 

Ephesians speaks of the gifts we are given to be used to build up the body of Christ. Fund-raising is nothing more than sharing the story of the mission of our organization and asking folks to be a part of it. Does this sound familiar? Evangelism comes to mind, whether I'm raising money or casually conversing with a teammate.  Somewhere along the way, everyone gets it that my spiritual life and my training-for-a-cause life are intertwined like a Celtic cross.

Through Team in Training, a number of families have joined my home church, Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. Through the church, a number of individuals have trained with Team in Training and other causes.  Because of personal experience with family, church, and friends struggling to outlive their blood cancers, I was inspired to begin this journey.  In seven years I've crossed the finish lines of 18 marathons, triathlons, and century cycling events all over the country and raised $75,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We're the ones in the purple jerseys, representing 68 chapters in the U.S.

And for fun, I train, ride, do more events, and celebrate life with a local group of zany women called the TriGirl Posse. In some cases I'm old enough to be their mothers, but they don't call me "Mom," they call me "Hot." It makes me smile inside, and we are always there for each other. My husband has long since given up doubting my ability to do endurance events, and is one of my biggest advocates, though he teases about tripping over piles of sneakers, bike shoes, spandex shorts, and wicking shirts. 

Truth be told, this journey involves blood (cancers), sweat, and tears as I get involved with individuals and their families as they make their way through diagnosis, treatment, and uncertainty about the future.  They are the real heroes in this story.  For Dad, J.D., Sarah, Mike, Burt, Helen, and Kaye, I look to Isaiah 40:31: I will run and not be weary; I will walk and not faint.   


This article was first published by Hungryhearts, a quarterly journal published by the Office of Spiritual Formation of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Jan McGilliard is executive director of ElderConnections based in Roanoke, Virginia, which provides consulting services, leader development, educational workshops, keynote presentations, and retreats on issues of aging and spirituality.  Visit her website at www.janintraining.com.