Falling at the Finish Line


I hate to write yet again with an Olympic topic, but the Olympics provide so many great lessons for life.

Last week, I was stuck on a plane. You see, they were getting ready to take off when the captain was informed that the US Military had shut down all airspace over the Gulf of Mexico. A problem for us, as my wife and I were heading from Orlando to a connecting flight in Houston, Texas. After sitting on the runway for quite some time, the captain came on and informed us of this news. "I apologize, we are getting a reroute now and will put this into the plane's system as soon as possible." Ten minutes later the captain gets on again, "Again, I apologize. We have been given our reroute, but it appears as though we don't have enough gasoline for this. So, we are awaiting maintenance who will roll us back to the gate, and add more gas to our plane." After a lengthy wait, we finally were on the runway and the captain came one once more, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are ready for take off and we appreciate your patience. To reward you for your wait, please enjoy complimentary Direct TV service in flight." Well, I didn't have headphones, so I flipped it to the Olympic channel where I was captivated by the Mens 50K Speedwalk Final.

The Men's 50K Speed Walk Final

First, I had no idea that this was even an event. Second, as I was watching these individuals, my heart went out to them as they were contorting their bodies in unnatural ways to race, but not to run. After a few minutes of watching, I started to do the math in my head. If a 10K is 6.2 miles (I knew this as a cross-country runner), than a 50K is just over 31 miles. THEY WERE RACE WALKING FOR 31 MILES! This had to be the longest event in all of the Olympics.

I have to admit, I got addicted to the race. I could not take my eyes off it, even though I had a book that I really wanted to ready. Luckily, I had tuned in towards the end of the race. Marej Sloth from Slovakia took first and finished the race with great enthusiasm, complete with flag wrapped around his shoulders. What impressed me the most were the next three finishers. Just 18 seconds from the winner, Jared Tallent from Australia, Hirooki Arai from Japan, Evan Dunfee from Canada, crossed the finish line.

Crossing the Finish Line

Now, I've finished a lot of races in my day, but this was different. Literally, just one foot past the finish line Jared knelt down and then fell prostrate across the track. Hirooki did just about the same. Evan came across and had determination to make it further than the previous two, but started to sway heavily, then just collapsed. All three laying just feet over the finish line. Immediately medical support raced out to assist these finishers, who all struggled to raise and make way for additional finishers.

I loved this as this is what I want my finish line of life to look like. I want to be the person who pushed so hard, for so long that when the finish line comes I don't have energy enough to make it even one foot across. I want to be able to say that I gave it my all, every single last drop. I can only imagine what speed walking 31 miles is like, but to put it simply, it must feel like a marathon and so is this life. It is long, it is challenging and it may seem like the end will never come, but we mustn't give up. We must push forward, learning, growing and doing all we can for ourselves and others. Only then can we finish like these fine speedwalkers!


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