I ran a 13-mile race last week that gave me insight into the presidential race. If you can stay with me, I promise that this column won’t read like an article for Runner’s World.
The race was a half-marathon called the Urban Cow, and its flat Sacramento course makes it a popular race for runners looking to break their own personal records. However, with 4,000 participants, its popularity necessitates two starting groups, fast and slow. (Guess what group I was in. Hint: I turned 55 this month.)
The fast runners started the race five minutes ahead of the slower group so as to prevent collisions. (We wouldn’t want any road rage among runners, now would we?) It was a good plan because we all wore electronic readers that accurately recorded our time no matter when we started.
Of course, the plan works best when everyone actually runs the same route. That didn’t happen in our race.
Apparently, the cyclist enlisted to guide the faster group became geographically challenged and took the racers off course for a full half-mile. Some of the racers quit at that point, but most continued to follow even after they realized the mistake.
By this time, my slow group was gaining on them. We cluelessly felt like we were setting records.
At the end of the race, most of us did not feel that the mistake was disastrous.
Times were adjusted and people still celebrated with a beer and a laugh. And maybe the best part was that a few of the slow runners made a united finish with a few of the fast ones.
The race results put me in mind of the upcoming presidential election.
Whomever we elect will someday inadvertently take a wrong turn (and hopefully it’ll be a “she” someday). And assuming they don’t take a moral or legal detour, we will need to follow our leader as best we can. I say this for two reasons.
First, as a military officer of 26 years, I know how important it is to show respect to the chain of command. Disrespect can cost lives because our enemies take note on how well we follow our commander in chief.
Don’t get me wrong. The officers I work with will sometimes complain about leadership, but they will die in respect to the office of the president.
Second, as a person of faith, I find biblical direction from Titus 3:1-2: “... Respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God’s people should be big-hearted and courteous.” This means I don’t use my pulpit to lampoon a candidate or endorse him.
My feeling is that no matter who wins this race, we will all win if we stay together. So no matter who is elected next month, I hope you will join me in saying as John McCain so graciously conceded in 2008:
“I wish Godspeed to the man who ... will be my president. And I call on all Americans ... to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America. ... Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”
McCain took no detour. He saw the purpose in the race, and in my mind, that sentiment makes him the biggest winner who ever lost.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of “No Small Miracles.” He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board- certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thechaplain.net.