26.2 Miles of Memories

April 25, 2014 • United States

A Team Samaritan's Purse marathoner is raising funds for the construction of mission hospitals around the world in honor of her brother, a skilled builder

Jeannie Kahle serves as an Accounts Payable Clerk at Samaritan’s Purse International Headquarters.

The day is fast approaching. Even a fleeting thought of it is enough to quicken my pulse and tighten a spot in my gut. How many times since I started the training schedule would I ask myself, “Can I really do this?”

You see, I am one of those runners who only love running when I am finished. I don’t really enjoy the run itself. Honestly, while I am running I don’t do any deep thinking or reflection. I don’t have great ideas, epiphanies, or solve any problems. I just want it to be over so I can check it off my to-do list and not feel bad about having fries with dinner.

So why does someone who runs merely for a good calorie burn sign up to run 26.2 miles? I have asked myself that question several times over the past few months. I can only eat so many fries in a day; so beyond that, what’s the point?

I guess it comes down to the challenge. Could I, or better yet, would I set such a lofty goal for myself and actually see it through to the end? The only way to find out was to try.

But shortly into the training program my resolve began to wane. Running five miles a few times a week was one thing, but I quickly realized that a great deal of time, effort, pain, and determination would be required to run a marathon. I wasn’t so sure that it was worth it.

At that point, it became clear I would need a hefty dose of purpose and a tall order of motivation to help get me through it. I instantly thought of my family.

I am fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband and two sons who have always cheered me on. Above that, God gave me brothers and a sister who are my closest friends and allies. I have often thought that our meager beginnings may have served as the perfect environment in which love, respect, and loyalty could flourish.

Growing up on a tobacco farm in the rural Appalachian mountains of North Carolina was, among other things, a blessing. Even though we had no modern conveniences, not even indoor plumbing or hot running water, I would never describe my childhood as boring.

With five siblings and acres of fields and woods around, there was no end to the fun and excitement we could create for ourselves. I had three older brothers, an older sister, and a younger brother. Farm life and near-poverty conditions fostered a special kind of bond between us. Regardless of the situation, we always had each other’s backs.

Over the years, that devotion was solidified through many tough times—none more so than in 2009 when we lost our mom. We were devastated, but we still had each other.

Then in August 2013, the unthinkable happened. We were faced with the loss of our brother, Wayne. In an instant, the love and support system that had always been six strong was now only five, and none of us felt very strong.

Wayne was full of life, always telling funny stories. He loved to laugh, and more than that, he loved to make others laugh. He was a skilled and artistic builder. He built many cabins and homes, including mine. Wayne also made handcrafted furniture and cabinets. He was self-taught and could design and build just about anything he set his mind to, needing not much more than a scrap piece of paper, a pencil, and some imagination.

Needless to say, the trial of losing him was different than any before. Even though we stood together as a family with arms linked, as always, each of us would need to seek out our own unique path of healing. We know that ultimate healing comes from Jesus, but remembering those who made our lives so much brighter is, to me, a remedy in itself.

These thoughts of my family gave me the idea to turn the endeavor of running a marathon into an opportunity to honor my brother’s memory and support a wonderful ministry at the same time.

Memories of Wayne help keep Jeannie going

Memories of Wayne help keep Jeannie going

I am running the New River Marathon on May 3 with Team Samaritan’s Purse in memory of Wayne, and that has given me the motivation to keep going each time I have wanted to quit. This also made it much easier to choose a program to support.

Samaritan’s Purse has so many wonderful opportunities to help less fortunate people around the world that it would be difficult to choose just one. But because my brother was a builder, I decided to support the building of mission hospitals.

Over the years, Samaritan’s Purse has built medical facilities in many impoverished places, but it doesn’t stop there. Just as the Good Samaritan made provisions for continued care, Samaritan’s Purse provides doctors, nurses, and ongoing medical supplies and equipment for these hospitals to do the same.

Over the past few weeks, family, friends, and strangers alike have made donations to help me meet my fundraising goal. I am sincerely grateful for each one. Without their encouragement, I might have given up because the training has been much more difficult than I ever expected.

After many miles, lots of aches, a nasty sprain, various pains, and some tears, I can’t really say it has been fun … or even that I am ready. But I can say that it is, indeed, worth it.