Finishing the race is easy if things are going well. But what if things are going badly and the potential for a good result is lost? Isn’t it better to stop competing?
Try telling that to an athlete who made a courageous choice nearly 50 years ago that still inspires me today. I call his story, The 5000 Mile Marathon.
In 1968 John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania competed in the Olympic marathon in Mexico City. During the event he battled with cramps due to the high altitude and, at the 19 kilometre mark of the 42 kilometre race, he suffered a fall when some of his competitors were jostling for position. As a result he injured his shoulder and wounded and dislocated his knee.
By all accounts his race was over. But he continued running knowing that he could not achieve a podium finish or even a respectable time. He pushed through the pain of his injuries and finished last among the 57 runners who completed the marathon.
The closing part of his race was dramatic. The sun had set over the stadium and the medal ceremony had taken place. Then, the news came in that there was still one more runner left out on the course.
As the heavily bandaged Akhwari limped into the stadium, the small crowd that was left cheered him home.
When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
John Stephen Akhwari’s courageous choice to continue to run that day inspires me to be true to the commitments I make, and to push past the temptation to drop out when the going gets tough.
Like him, I want to be someone who is known for finishing the race.