"Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching" - Paul of Tarsus, 'Epistle to the Hebrews', ca. 1st century BCE.
Mid-November. Second of three long training runs, preparing for a marathon. Let me tell you, if I had to do this all by myself I'm not certain I would have gone through with it, at least not the second or the third of three long runs. While I know it was truly nuts to do two hilly 8.2-mile loops as part of training for a (relatively) flat marathon, as I used to tell my coach, 'it seemed like a good idea at the time.' So, this time we split the hilly 8.2-mile loop into the front and back half of the training run, joining a relatively flat 6.9-mile loop to it by a smooth, shaded .6-mile stretch of road we used to use for tempo workouts. While it made the logistics of hydration a tad more challenging, it did have some conveniences (water fountains, bathrooms) which made up for the hassle.
We still were able to maintain our 'Blackhawk Down' policy, the idea of leaving no runner behind during training; the ladies were running at pretty much the same pace, and while one of our group went off the front, no one fell behind. By the time the girls showed up from their run we were nearly dry and very ready for coffee and bagels. There weren't any tables available inside the local bagel joint, but once the sun had come out and the temperature had risen into the high-60s or low-70s it was relaxing to sit outside, crack jokes and enjoy each others' company for an hour or so.
I rarely search for parallels between running and faith, but the Pauline exhortation makes more and more sense, especially if running takes on religious overtones for you. Long races, such as marathons, and competition periods that consist of several races can be seen as a test of ones' belief in their training, as well as the works (long runs, speed work, tempo runs, cross training, and so forth) that dovetail into the individual's 'faith'. Sometimes the best we can do for one another is be around to encourage our fellow runner, especially on those days when the run is little more than a slog and we begin to ask ourself, 'what the hell am I doing!?'
I guess you could go back and look at the letters in the New Testament, the schisms based on personality more than doctrine, and then look at groups of athletes and see, for lack of a better term, denominations. I keep thinking about Paul's statement of how each worker has a small role to play in the big picture, and then I can say, borrowing from Paul:
Igloi, Schul, Daniels, Hanson & Fox planted; DeFoy & I watered, & God gives the increase.