What a rope and seven runners taught me about encouragement

What seven runners and a rope taught me about encouragementI’ve watched a lot of cross-country races in my day. All three of my kids participate in the sport, so I’ve become a big fan. One of my favorite races is the Steven Thompson Memorial Centipede. It’s unlike any other high school meet my kids’ teams attend because the athletes run as a single unit for the first two-thirds of the race. No joke: all seven members of the team hold a rope while they run.


For the final mile, they drop the rope and finish the race as individuals. But each athlete’s finishing time is driven, in large part, by the strength of their team whose collective pace positions them for the final mile. The fastest athletes finish slower than they do when they run alone and, often, the slower runners finish faster.


Coaches make thoughtful, strategic decisions about the order in which their runners hold the rope. One option is to put them in successive order of average finishing time, effectively pulling the slower runners along. Another strategy is to have the two strongest on either end of the rope and the slowest in the middle, to both pull and push the slower runners.


My daughter came home yesterday saying their team had decided on an entirely different strategy. Their plan is to place the fastest runner at the front of the rope but the slowest immediately behind her with the rest of the team following. Their thinking delighted me: their aim is to have the fastest runner be nearby to encourage the slowest runner throughout the duration of the race.



Encouragement is what the writer of Hebrews asks us to do for one another:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
—Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV


You and I may not be running in a high school cross country race, but we are running the race of life (Hebrews 12:1-3). And we run it in faith. We’re meant to be in community—the Body—for the purpose of encouraging one another. We, in essence, are holding the same rope. Our “finish” is determined by the love and encouragement we show our spouses, friends, family, and neighbors (Luke 10:25-37).

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@kirholmberg” suffix=””]Offering #encouragement to others is an outward expression of our #faith. [/inlinetweet][Tweetable]

Whose rope can you hold today, to come alongside them in faith with encouragement to persevere?



  1. Kristen Jacobs on September 14, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Hi Kirsten, this post resonated with me because of a thought I have carried for a week now. I have been in Sweden and they have so many refugees in the country.The country is trying so hard to integrate the refugees. One night we shared a meal with some Syrian refugees. I thought about what I should be doing at home to share God’s love (share the rope) with these people who have had to leave their countries due to contiditions there. Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Kirsten on November 1, 2017 at 1:28 am

      Kristen! Your comment was accidentally flagged as spam; I’m sorry for not seeing it until now. I’d love to hear about your experience in Sweden an what thoughts your dinner prompted.

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