Have you ever run a marathon?
For many families, participating in a marathon is a relatively rare opportunity. I know there are a number of folks that would like to run the St George marathon for instance, but for one reason or another, they have been unable to qualify for this race.
On the other hand, the St. George Marathon accommodates up to 7,400 runners from any nation and many prepare and submit registrations years in advance. The runners are selected by random to participate, and these athletes must be able to complete the race within six hours.
Even then, this is relatively few when compared to the 30074 runners in the 2017 Boston marathon. Why would so many do that? Marathons are hard. I imagine there are many motivations: competition, self-fulfillment, challenge, love of participation and seeing what one is really capable of. It’s certainly an admirable feat to run 26.2 miles, but it’s not for everyone.
Though I haven’t run in a marathon-length race myself, I have witnessed the outcome and celebration for those that have. And frankly, completing the race is a noble accomplishment. I will never forget these experiences. They are remarkable. Just a year or so ago, several of my children participated in a race that concluded in downtown Provo, Utah. The fanfare and celebration for runners were invigorating and inspirational to say the least. Awards were given to the fastest runners, who completed the race with the best times. But all the athletes were rewarded with admiration and praised for their endurance. It was awesome.
“Concentrate on small segments of your race at a time. For example, rather than obsessing about the distance that remains, simply complete the next mile in good form…try another, then another, until the race is done.”
“One day I won’t be able to do this, today is not that day.”
“Be confident in the work you did to prepare for the race. Take a look back at your training logs to remind yourself that you’ve done everything possible to prepare. The race is the fun part where you get to see the hard work pay off. Enjoy it.”
-Desiree Davila, U.S. Olympic marathoner
“It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”
-An old adage
But perhaps, you like me are saying that “I will never qualify for a race of this magnitude.” Even so, my family is filled with athletic individuals that have and will likely run additional marathons during their lives. Though you may not have run a full marathon, give yourself credit. You are a contributing member in the marathon of life, of which we all are participants. Life’s marathon takes stamina, preparation, vigilance, endurance, and tenacity as well.
During the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari placed dead last in the marathon, yet major sports magazines named him as one of two “top international Olympians” that year. People are still talking about his performance. The night was falling when he entered the stadium for his final lap. News reporters and sports magazines hailed his accomplishment then and still do so today. While losing the race, Mr. Akhwari won the admiration of untold thousands because he embodied the spirit of a true Olympian as he finished despite setbacks.
We are still celebrating this victory nearly 50 years afterward.
He is quoted as saying “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.” These words still inspire me today.
Though runners are competing with each other, I feel there is a camaraderie among the athletes, because completing this accomplishment at all is an amazing feat. You then join the family of those that had the strength, determination and sheer fortitude to stick it out to the very end. Some of these athletes crossed the finish line on their hands and knees out of complete exhaustion. They hit the wall as they say, but even then they would not quit.
I would like to think that we can encourage and help one another through the hardships of life. There are great challenges, and we are in this race together. I have no doubt that there are many that are and will be celebrating our marathon through life for years to come, possibly ions. During the next couple months, the world will pause for a moment to celebrate the Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games and a major international multi-sport event scheduled to take place February 2018 in South Korea. Untold thousands stand ready to admire and celebrate the spirit of these true Olympians in multiple sporting events.
This is good and right and noble. Yet even then, the number of fans during these games is infinitesimal when compared to the millions cheering you on from both sides of the veil in your home stretch in the marathon of life. This is not a race for the speedy but to he who endures to the end.
The Savior Jesus Christ waits today for us to let him into our lives. We have been invited to witness marvelous things for ourselves. The invitation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “Come unto Christ” and is meant for each of God’s children.
The celebration awaiting those that come unto him is exciting and inspirational. A reward is prepared for those that endure. All that follow Him receive the mansions prepared for them in heaven and are blessed for their endurance. And everyone qualifies for this race, including you and me.
The only time that really matters is His time.
The most important thing is not to win but to take part.
Grateful for the opportunity.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.