Finishing Last

October 22, 2012 — 11 Comments

Don’t you love inspirational sports stories about people overcoming challenges and winning?  I especially love stories from the world of long distance racing.  Probably because I hate running and admire those that love it.  Unfortunately, I need a reason to run.  Such as from a murderer or to get chocolate.  So people who run in long distance races have my utmost respect.

We recently attended a High School Cross Country meet.  As the race wore on, my attention was drawn to the back where something special began to surface.  I saw the runners encouraging each other without regard for team division and rivalry.  The competition disappeared.  The fans who patiently waited for those in the back, cheered on each and every runner.  A camaraderie developed as the unified goal became to just finish the race.

After the first mile of the race, one runner in the back began to struggle more than the rest and fell back.  With each step, the lone runner fell further and further behind.

When the runners disappeared behind a cornfield waiting to be harvested, everyone waited with bated breath hoping their guy would emerge first.  The runners rounded the corner, ran by the cheering fans, and began their last mile.  As each runner went by, fans slowly moved to the finish line.  A few of us waited for the lone runner.

Minute after minute ticked by and still no lone runner.  We began hearing cheers as runners finished their third mile, crossing the finish line.  We waited on the lone runner to emerge from the cornfield but only saw the brown corn leaves blowing in the wind.

The few people waiting on the lone runner, thinking he gave up, made their way to the finish line.  My son and I didn’t move.  Was it just too discouraging for the lone runner?  Did he quit?  After all, most of the runners were finished and he was still on the second mile.  I looked down at my son and said, “I’m so sorry, but he must have quit.”  Just as we turned for the finish line, my son excitedly announced, “There he is!”

Emerging from the corn was the lone runner trudging slowly along.  As he neared us, he could hear the cheers at the finish line as the last of the boys finished mile three.  How hard it must be to keep running when everyone else has finished their race.

Yet, he raced on.  What character!  What an inspiration!  What a life lesson.  How many times have I been tempted to give up on life?  When the road seemed too long and I just wanted to stop.  When I felt I wasn’t getting the support I needed and became so discouraged I wanted to quit.  The times the pain was so intense, I just wanted to lay down and surrender to the agony.

The lone runner became a metaphor for life.  He disappeared behind the corn for the last half mile.  His coach yelled encouraging words through the corn.  His team lined the final stretch.  And again, we waited.

Finally, the lone runner emerged.  Panting, limping, crying out in pain.  My son and I cheered wildly as the lone runner passed.  Determined, nothing was going to stop him from finishing.

I was sad only a few of us saw the lone runner cross the finish line.  He was just an ordinary runner, very few cared to see run but who taught an important life lesson.

– Never give up.

– Fight through pain.

– Don’t lose sight of the finish line, even when it’s not visible.

– Look for fans on the sidelines.  They are there.

– Your race is encouraging others even when you don’t realize it.

– And never forget to look for inspiration among the ordinary.  You’ll always find it!

I’m so inspired, I just may join a real life long distance race.  In the Krispy Kreme Challenge, runners race to eat a dozen doughnuts.  That sounds right up my alley.  On second thought, maybe I’ll just run to my kitchen and eat a Snickers.

.….Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:13-14)

@2012 Connie Johnson

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