Monday, July 30, 2012

To Finish the Race. . .

Our family has been watching the Olympics and this year we have an added interest because our daughter's boyfriend is British.  Often when the television cameras pan sights of London, our daughter will say, "Been there.  Been there, too."  Her boyfriend, who grew up in England, doesn't seem to find the need to let us know he has "been there,"  his accent alone lets us know that.

Having someone from another country with you while watching these international games gives a different flair to the watching.  The entire audience of our house is not solely rooting for USA, and while we all cheer for Great Britain if USA is not in the race, or we know he cheers for us if Great Britain is not in the race, it does make one more sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

Regardless of national sensibilities, the most important thing is that the race be finished and hopefully finished well.  At least once over the years I have seen an Olympic race where an athlete simply did not, either because of injury or accident, finish the race.  This I think is sadder than coming in dead last.

There was one runner in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, who showed great courage to finish his race.  While competing in the marathon, a 26 mile 385 yard race,  John Stephen Akhwari, from Mbulu, Tanganyika experienced cramps from the high altitude of the city. At the 11.8 miles into the 26+ mile race some runners were jockeying for position and he was hit causing him to fall and badly wound and dislocate his knee.  He also hit his shoulder hard against the pavement.

He could have stopped running, surely no one would have blamed him for doing so.  But he continued running, finishing last of the 57 runners who completed the race. (There were 18 runners who never made it to the finish line.)

Momo Wolde of Ethiopia finished the marathon in 2 hours 20 minutes and 26 seconds.  Akhwari finished the marathon in 3 hours 25 minutes and 27 seconds.  By that time the sun had already set and there were only a few thousand people left in the stadium.  When word was received during the medal ceremony that one more runner was about to finish, a television crew was sent out to televise his finish.

A cheer came up from the crowd as he crossed the finish line.  Later, when asked why he had continued running in spite of his injuries he replied, "My country did not send me 5,000 miles just to start the race, they sent me to finish the race."

The Apostle Paul knew the possibility of ending the race on the side of the track instead of crossing the finish line when he said, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway," (I Corinthians 9:27.)  

He also encouraged us to "run, that ye may obtain" because "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?" (I Corinthians 9:24.)

There is so much in our lives which can injure, distract or discourage us from continuing on the race which is before us.  But as did the Apostle Paul, we must not count ourselves to have already apprehended, but our attitude must be, as was his, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 3:13,14.)

We each face distractions, injuries and discouragements along our own races.  Let resolve to continue, to press on, to run that we may obtain.  If we fall or even if, like Akhwari, we are knocked down and injured, let us get up and continue running, so that at the end of the race, we may, like Paul, state:

" I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith"
2 Timothy 4:7

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