Victoria Park in sight, floods of well-wishers cheer from the footpath, and a man collapses just ahead, hitting the hot asphalt. Surprised spectators morph into a trauma team rushing to his aid, offering their strength, isotonic drinks and encouragement. My husband and I speed up toward the finish line, not even feeling our exhausted legs, wondering about the guy we saw slamming the road behind us. Our friends and family are screaming and waving from the sidelines. We are victorious, not because we won, certainly not because we made record time, but simply because we ran and we finished. Along the journey, the support crew were essential to our success.
In preparation, I did 20 weeks of training, clocking 189km in October alone. I deserved to enjoy the run, but instead, it’s torture, not something I would wish on my worst enemy, and l lean heavily on the support network to get me through. Running with the Harbour Bridge beneath my feet, I muse about the complex machine which is a marathon, and my mind wonders to abolition. I know when the abolition movement outlawed slavery, it was no easy task, but I hadn’t realized just how many different people were a part of the movement. Like a marathon, the abolition movement is not about one person.
From the halfway point through the city, the first runner sprints by, leaving us in his dust and finishing minutes later. Marathon winners, we admire them. They are the William Wilberforce’s who make a stand, make a difference, but did you know, it was some friends who dragged Wilberforce into the abolition movement! What were their names? I can’t remember, but one thing is for certain, they changed the world.
We progress towards the St Heliers turning point, witnessing those jogging; hobbling; limping; and walking their way onward. No big banner of glory, but each one owns the personal prize of knowing that they came, and they conquered. How many hang in there when the road is long and hard? From marathons to abolition, what does it take to keep going on the cause for freedom? Vivienne Harr was only eight years old when she began Make A Stand—raising money to stamp out child slavery. Here in NZ, Lizzie Pawson was nine years old when she started saving her pocket money and raising funds for Freeset, an organization setting women free from the sex trade in Kolkata. Lizzie, now twenty-one, is moving to India in 2015 to live and walk along side those who are free and to journey with those who desire freedom from the sex trade.
There are runners, and there are allies. Road safety stewards grin and wave; drink stop volunteers offer fluids—flat coke suddenly a new favorite. We met a bike riding, orange t-shirted, father and son support team. They would cheer and encourage, then cycle ahead and wait at the next corner. Smiles and sweet encouragement were fuel as they biked alongside us for the last and hardest kilometers. They were a caffeine hit to the soul when we couldn’t stomach any more “run lollies”. A burst blister at 39kms was a shock and it felt like running on glass, yet the bee sting pain took the focus off my desperately aching legs. The son of the pedaling orange t-shirt duo yelled his support and drew out the best in me—I felt strangely energized. That boy did what he could and it was precious.
We are all at different stages and ages but each have something unlike anyone else to bring to the modern abolition movement, for a slave free New Zealand and one day, a slave free world. Not everybody is a front line, marathon winning Wilberforce superstar, but some of us in the race to make a difference and we need the essential support team to help us get to the finish line. Thank you to those who helped me and thousands of others on the road last weekend. Thank you to those who see themselves as part of the abolition support team. My physical marathon race is over but the marathon race of abolition is only at the beginning of its run. Whatever it is that you have to offer to make the dream of freedom a reality, just do it.