This is an excerpt from the book ‘Grace Runner’ about Amy Compston and the Amy For Africa mission that will be coming out in June! Be watching for announcements!!
A MOMENT TO REMEMBER
For about two weeks prior to the Nashville Ultra Marathon, Chris Compston began doing a little running of his own around Ashland. He would go on runs of five or six miles, at the most, just enough to keep in some kind of running shape.
Because ultra marathons allow friends or family to jump in and run with the competitors, Chris wanted to experience some of the thrill if Amy needed some company. If she didn’t want any company, that was fine for him, too. But he wanted to be ready.
Two days before the ultra marathon was carb-load day for Amy and Chris decided to join her. Carb-load day is probably the best day to be a runner because you mostly eat everything in sight. Chris and Amy plowed through a couple of bags of Twizzlers and Starbursts – both loaded with sugar and carbs – on the way to Williamsburg where Amy would later speak at the University of Cumberlands. That’s where Julie Paris, daughter of pastor Floyd Pastor, goes to college. Julie, of course, would be considered one of the founders of the Penne Paris Schools in Moyo, Uganda. So the Amy For Africa team’s appearance at the college seemed to bring the mission full circle, since the Penne Paris Schools is where the fundraising money was going.
The morning after speaking, Chris and Amy even went on a two-mile jog together around Williamsburg. Little did they know what would transpire one day later in Nashville.
Chris, like the rest of us, woke up early on Race Day and began preparing himself just in case. He was dressed and ready to run at any juncture of the race. He promised himself that 1) He would only run if Amy asked him and 2) He would not cross the finish line with her. Chris wanted, in no way, to have any attention on him. This was Amy’s day and it was Amy’s race. It turned out to be a day this Christian couple will likely never forget.
Not only was Chris determined to be ready to jump into the race at any time, he was also determined not to miss seeing Amy run past him at the many checkpoints along the race route. The day before the race, when a group of us went with Amy to pick up her racing bib, we gathered some street directions on how to get to these checkpoints. Since none of us knew the Nashville area well, we needed some kind of direction. Chris would jump in his van – “The Silver Bullet” – and race around to the many stops. He was itching to run and you could tell it. But he wasn’t going to do it unless Amy asked. He knew his wife and he knew she’d ask when it was necessary.
Chris was like somebody whose feet were on fire. He was pacing at every stop and relieved every time he saw Amy’s smiling face come around the corner. He was so zoned in on the race I’m surprised all four of the children who were in tow with him all made it to the destination. For that, Chris and Amy can thank grandmothers, aunts and uncles, nieces and siblings themselves and friends. When Amy For Africa travels, they come in waves.
It was at the turnaround around mile thirty-six that Chris got the call from Amy to join her. She had never run more than thirty-one miles in her life and the fatigue was beginning to set in. Chris was out of his sweats in about two seconds and running off with Amy. In his mind, the plan was to run about five to eight miles and then meet us at one of the two remaining checkpoints.
Everybody piled in our respective vehicles and headed off to the next stop, a walking bridge near LP Stadium, where the Tennessee Titans play, in the downtown Nashville area. The runners would come over the bridge about five or six miles past the last checkpoint. Isolated dark clouds were forming over-head, almost it seemed right over the area where the runners would be crossing the bridge. The skies opened up and everybody ran for cover. Beth Maynard and Julie Paris were midway up the bridge where they were going to signal us when Amy and Chris approached. They were caught in the middle of the storm but Beth protected them with a blanket she had taken along. They made a fort out of it and kneeled down until the storms passed. Unfortunately, they never saw Chris and Amy pass by them.
Because of other events going on in and around Nashville, it wasn’t easy getting around. As a matter of fact, only one group made it to the checkpoint at the bridge.
With the rain pouring down, Chris and Amy came over the bridge together and Amy had the biggest smile on her face. “I asked the Lord for rain at mile 40! This is such a blessing from God!” While everybody else was running for cover and Beth and Julie were huddled together under a homemade blanket fort, Amy was praising God for the showers of blessing that were pelting her tired body.
As Chris made the turn at the bottom of the bridge, he uttered through shortened breath, “She is amazing! Unreal! Amazing! I love her so much!”
There was no way that Chris was stopping there. He would wait for the next checkpoint and let Amy finish the last five miles by herself through some wooded area. At least that was his plan. Chris knew he was reaching his limit, that he’d never run more than 10 miles without severe cramping. He ran and finished the Dayton Air Force Marathon but had to stop and walk after 10 miles because the cramps wouldn’t allow his body to continue running. Runners call it hitting the wall. That was in the back of his mind as they headed toward the next checkpoint. But he figured he could gut it out for Amy.
The only problem with his plan was that nobody could get to the next checkpoint because of street traffic. We waited 15 minutes to cross the street at LP Stadium because of a 600-motorcycle caravan for Toys for Tots. It was amazing to see but we knew Chris was going to be greeted with no one and that he was going to have to finish the rest of the race. He could have dropped out, of course, at any point but he was determined to go as far as physically possible.
Remember, he had done some running prior to the ultra marathon and it was definitely a good thing. While Chris had been running a little, completing a half marathon with next to no preparation was not going to be easy and he knew it. The cramps started coming and Chris, at times running a few feet behind Amy, remembered how his wife had talked about the tough times and how she dealt with it. He began quoting scripture and singing church hymns. Amy joined with him and cried out to God for strength while running through a wooded area, one of the toughest parts of the course. Amy said her legs were so numb she almost couldn’t lift them over a log in the pathway. They were both struggling but determined to complete this mighty task. “It was amazing the strength that came from quoting those scriptures and singing the hymns,” Chris said. “It was just like Amy said.”
Amy remembers crying out to God, “Help us Father! Strengthen us Father!” God did deliver them from their pain and kept Amy going despite extreme pain. Even better, the couple was able to share God’s amazing power together.
They were able to keep running at Amy’s nine-minute per mile pace during the entire time that Chris was running with her. Not only was he running, but he was going at an accelerated pace. The fatigue and fear of cramps began about two miles from the finish line. Chris could go no further at Amy’s pace. He told her to “go on.” The rest of the race was all Amy which, in reality, is what Chris wanted,
Amy came through the tunnel on the last stretch of the race to cheering Amy for Africa fans. The children, carrying the Amy for Africa banner behind her, followed her to the finish line. There was such a smile on her face as she finished in a slow sprint. She literally had left everything on the course. She lifted up her arms in triumph as family and friends surrounded her and offered congratulatory hugs. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved. Five months of training had come down to this moment.
A few minutes later, up walked Chris, her exhausted husband. He didn’t get the greeting that Amy had received although everybody knew that Chris Compston was a hero of the day, too. God used him to give Amy a lift just when she needed it and kept her at a pace that allowed her to complete the race in seven hours, thirty-six minutes and fourteen seconds, good enough for second among all female participants. The happy couple embraced at the finish line and anybody watching who didn’t tear up just a little is lying. Chris was Amy’s rock when she needed it. He did what spouses are supposed to do. They are to be supportive, uplifting and inspiring. Chris was all that and more. He wanted no credit for what had transpired but, truly, Chris made a difference in Amy’s race. She would have finished the race no matter what but being able to share those 12 miles with him made it all the more special, especially during the times when they both simply cried out to God for his sustaining strength. It’s a moment in their lives that will be frozen in time.