The Cross-Guy
Tim McKenny, pictured above, running last year's race. His cross is covered in prayers written by people in his ministry- prayers for healing, health, and recovery- all of which, he says, came true.

The Cross Guy

Marathons With a Mission to Spread Love and Positivity

by Melissa LaScaleia

Tim McKenney was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. He met his wife, Brianca, in high school, and the couple relocated to Columbia, SC after they were married. In Columbia they were part of a Christian ministry, and moved to Charleston three years ago to help a group of fellow parishioners open a new branch of the church. 

Tim was a former Marine, and Brianca was in the Air Force. Always in pursuit of adventurous activities, when they heard about Charleston’s annual Cooper River Bridge Run 10k, they compiled a group from their church and decided to run it together as a team. And from there, things got more adventurous indeed. 

“It all started when we were trying to build the church in Charleston,” Tim says. “We were commuting from Columbia every weekend, and then when the race came up it seemed fun and exciting for us all to do together. Then someone said, ‘Hey, let’s run it with crosses!’ And I hesitated but then thought, all right, let’s give it a go.” 

It was a spur of the moment decision for Tim, but it would impact his life more deeply than he realized. He went to Lowe’s and purchased some lumber, then fashioned a cross 6 ft tall and 3 ft wide. The finished product weighed some 20-30 lb. 

“It sounded challenging and I like to run,” Tim says with a laugh. “I used to do Spartan races, so I’m familiar with torture. In the Marine Corps we have a saying: ‘Train how you fight.’ So to prepare for the race, I would run around the neighborhood and parks carrying it.” 

Tim often gets stopped by curious onlookers while training, or those in need of support who ask him to pray for him. He doesn’t mind the interruptions, as he sees it as an opportunity to educate and help others. 

At first the only cross-carriers for the race were Tim and another teammate. But in successive years, others picked up the trend as well, and they became known as the Cross-Bearers Group. 

“Emotionally, it feels overwhelming,” he says, “to think that Jesus carried a much bigger cross for miles. I also feel empowered with my mission. Jesus healed sick people, taught people, and showed people how to love. He was just an awesome dude. And he was punished and died a cruel death because people didn’t like what he said and did. Before he died, he told people to carry on his message— which is to love your neighbor and do good to others. And that ties into why I carry a cross— it’s a personal remembrance for me to carry on his personal mission— to teach others what he did and how we should respond to life and to others.” 

Tim has run a total of three races with his cross. The last one he didn’t train for because he didn’t realize the race was being held. 

“But when I showed up, I think I ran faster than I usually train,” he says with a laugh. “I hadn’t run with the cross in two years, and then I picked it up and ran.” 

“I won’t push my luck though and do that again,” he adds. “This isn’t my new way to train.”

To learn more about Tim and what he’s up to visit: 

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