Saturday, September 3, 2011

Light of the World Hood to Coast Style

Van 1 at 4:30 a.m.

One of the assignments for my Haiti trip is to take two names of God, research them, and write a twenty-minute devotional talk.  I’ve spent the past several weeks studying “Light of the World” so it didn’t surprise me when Jesus revealed Himself as Light of the World all over the Hood to Coast course.

My Hood to Coast team drew a 6:30 a.m. start time and our van driver lives an hour from the start of the race.  When she disclosed this we invited ourselves over for a team sleepover.  We loaded the van on race morning in thick darkness.  As we posed for our first team picture, we all felt raindrops.  Rain wasn’t in the forecast for the weekend, but within minutes it was pelting the windshield in full force.  Thunder rumbled and frequent flashes of lightening lit up the sky in the direction we were heading.  The emergency warning system interrupted the radio station we were listening to and the automated voice on the other end warned of “severe weather, thunder, lightening, heavy rain and possible funnel clouds.  If you are outside, please take cover in a building away from windows.  This is a very dangerous storm.”

Nervous laughter filled the van and we wondered aloud if the race would be delayed.  We continued toward the mountain through the storm and eventually passed the first racer.  The beam of light from her headlight pierced the thick darkness as she raced down the mountain in the eye of the storm.  More runners followed and we knew the race was on.

We drove above the storm and arrived at Timberline Lodge in the warm, peaceful afterglow of the storm.  It was still dark and runners stayed within the confines of the floodlights that bordered the vendor tents and porta-potties.  I knew from past experience that Mt. Hood was so close you could reach out and touch it, but the darkness was too penetrating to actually see it.

at the epic start
the sky was on fire
And then it happened.  The sun began to rub the sleep from its eyes and start the process of waking the world.  The darkness faded to gray and a faint outline of Mt. Hood began to emerge.  It only took minutes for the landscape to change dramatically as the darkness was overcome with the brilliance of new light.  God painted the most beautiful sunrise I have ever witnessed.  Remnants of the storm came to life in amazing cloud formations hovering over the foothills below.  The sky was awash in shades of orange, pink and red, highlighting the whiteness of the clouds and the wetness of the pavement from the torrential downpour.  Mt. Hood slowly came into focus, redefining itself again as a magnificent centerpiece.  I watched in awe and marveled that God does this every, single morning.

starting Leg 2 in the late
afternoon heat
We ran down the mountain through the early morning light and into a hot, clear summer day.  We tagged off to Van 2 and while we rested and showered, they ran through the intense heat of the day.  When our van picked up the course shortly after 4 p.m., it was still hot and bright.  Rules on the course dictate that runners wear a headlamp, reflective vest and two flashers during the time span from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.  We thought the rules seemed excessive when the light from Ally’s headlight dissipated in the brightness of the early evening light but we followed them anyway.  I started my second leg at 7:30 p.m. and had to consciously remind myself to leave my sunglasses in the van.  Decked out in my darkness defying gear, I took the baton from Amy and ran into the evening.

My reflective vest was eighteen sizes too big and the weight of the flashers made it flop all over.  I spent the entire seven miles actively drowning in my vest and constantly adjusting it.  It was too light outside to discern if my flashers were working.  I accidentally put my headlight on upside down, pointing the beam of light toward the sky instead of toward the pavement.  My thoughts alternated between, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength – I thought this was supposed to be easy” and “It sure is a good thing I don’t actually need my lighting gear because I’m certain none of it is working properly.”

Ally with her reflective gear, in
the evening sunlight
And then it happened.  The sun went to bed and the darkness swallowed me whole.  One minute I could see.  The next I was running in the dark.  I started mentally panicking about my gear.  Why was my headlight doing such a terrible job of lighting my way?   Were my flashers (that were attached to my ginormous vest) working and would the fact that they were flopping around somewhere between my armpit and my neck have an impact on my visibility?  Headlights from passing cars blinded me as my eyes jumped back and forth from intense light to pitch darkness.  I ran down the highway alone, scanning the darkness for glimpses of runners in front of me.  They appeared as flashing lights and I ran faster to catch up.

Darkness is dangerous.  Objects in plain view during the day become obstacles in the dark.  Multiple times I almost ran smack dab into mailboxes on the sidewalk, not noticing them until the last second.   I stayed far away from the edge of the road and any possible ditches looming in the darkness, and I had to slow my gait to step carefully off the abnormally elevated sidewalk.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the lights and activity of the transition area flooded my vision and I successfully handed the baton to Carissa.

Carissa waiting for me to finish my second run
We tagged off to Van 2, showered, rested, and picked up where we left off at one in the morning.  The protective gear we scoffed at in the brightness of day became a valuable, can’t-live-without resource during our third and final leg of the race.  We each checked and double-checked to make sure we had our headlamp, flashers and reflective vest before leaving the light and security of the inside of the van.

I had been dreading my third leg from the first time I saw the elevation chart.  It consisted of a three and a half mile climb to the summit of a coastal mountain and then an additional three-mile descent down the other side.  My estimated start time was somewhere around o’dark thirty.  The fact that more than one person warned me to “be careful – a lot of people fall at the exchange” added to my apprehension.

Traffic approaching the exchange areas began backing up the closer we got to the ocean.  Our team stopped lollygagging at the exchange points and instead dropped off our new runner, picked up our sweaty runner, and dashed back to the van.  We got Amy out on the course and headed to the exchange area where she would hand off to me.  A mile before the exchange our van was stopped dead in traffic.  A steady stream of runners ran past the line of parked cars and my palms started sweating as I donned my gear and watched for Amy in the rearview mirror.  When she appeared I jumped out of the van and trailed her for a mile to the exchange area where she tagged off to me and I officially started my leg.  (We call those “bonus miles” and it was just what I didn’t want heading into my last leg.)

Carissa and I in the middle of the night - waiting to run our third leg.
When I got out of the van, I was exhausted, groggy and cold.  I expected to run slowly up the mountain but the cold air invigorated me and I came alive.  I ran - not for speed - but because running is food for my soul.  Me and Jesus on a country road, climbing a mountain in the dark.  Who does that?  I have no idea what got into me but I flew up the mountain, passing 25 people on the climb and 20 people on descent.  What I anticipated to be my toughest leg ended up being my fastest and my favorite.  Even better, I started my run in the thick black of night and watched the sky fade to gray and into the beautiful orange and pink of yet another sunrise.

Our entire team ran together through the sand to the finish line on the beach around lunch time on Saturday - more than thirty hours after we started.  The sun warmed our shoulders and the backs of our necks as we posed for pictures and celebrated our huge accomplishment.

our entire team at the beach in the brilliant sun
It’s hard not to draw the parallels to life.  Darkness and light.  Evil and good.  Sinner and Savior.  Years before Jesus came to earth, Isaiah prophesied about him and said, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light (Jesus); on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)  When Jesus came to earth, He told the people, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

During Hood to Coast, I saw the Great Light dawn two mornings in a row.  I ran in darkness and felt its danger and suffocating power.  The darkness made me crave the Light – the Light that brings life.  Thank you Jesus!


  1. Jodi - you're such an inspiration. Thank you for writing about your process! And I can't wait to hear your devotionals for The Names of God. Don't you love how faithful He is to speak to us when we're running?? Wouldn't have wanted to run H2C with anyone else.

  2. Jodi - you're such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in writing. I can't wait to hear your Names of God devotionals. Don't you love how faithful He is to reveal Himself while you're running?? Wouldn't have wanted to run H2C with anyone else.

  3. What an awesome post, Jodi! I got goosebumps reading it. Love all your descriptions and not only the beauty of Christ's light but the necessity of it. Beautiful.