No hills, no glory.
As Christopher Aho tried to pace himself during his nine-mile run, the hills were not a welcome sight. “No hills, no glory,” was a tagline on some of the shirts runners were wearing.
“It was the hardest leg,” Aho said of the Mayberry Team Marathon he ran with fellow church members from First Baptist Church in Mount Airy. “There were slight downhills but the hills were rougher each time.”
Aho, who is associate minister at FBC, has run other races before on his own or sometimes with other members in the church but never had he participated in a team marathon. In all 10 teams competed; four were from FBC, including a Masters team comprised of runners over age 40. Teams finished third, fourth, fifth and eighth. All of them were ahead of the Mt. Airy Police Department team, which came in ninth.
Another FBC staff member and the eldest member of the Masters team also ran the toughest leg consisting of about five miles of hilly roads. A grandmother, she tackled the hills with gusto.
One of the young adults who ran had a baby five months prior to the November race. There was also a father-daughter duo who ran and a senior in high school.
Amy Bledsoe, a mother and a real estate agent, was on the Masters Team.
“We had so much fun,” she said. “It was a good chance for different ages to be involved.”
Bledsoe was surprised her church had as many runners as they did.
Even though she had been involved in running groups within the church over they years, she said she had lost touch with some, at least about their running.
“It’s the fastest thing you can do to stay in shape,” Bledsoe said.
Her appearance in the local paper has been the source of many conversations within the community.
“Personally it’s been a good way to put that out there as a witness,” she said.
Aho said some church members participated in the half marathon while the teams ran the half marathon route twice.
“It would be kind of cool if a couple of other churches” would join next year, Aho said.
Aho anticipates having at least five teams in next year’s race, maybe more. Some more people have said they’d like to tackle the half marathon.
“I think for a long time church recreation ministry has been one of two things — No. 1: based in a building – what can we do with this recreation center? No. 2: Recreation committee making sure we have a softball and basketball team,” Aho said.
Aho said it would make a big difference if churches could use “recreation activities to connect people in meaningful ways.”
He considers it an untapped area of ministry.
“Oftentimes we’re afraid we don’t make opportunities to interact with other people,” Aho said. “When we do we benefit from it.”
In the busy world of today, Aho said it is easy to get disconnected.
“Through Blackberries and e-mail and texting … we’re more connected with people in less meaningful ways,” he said.
Aho sees the need for balance between fellowship and relationship … “not just what trophies we take home.
“I think it’s the first step in the re-creation of the recreation ministry.”