To Finish the Race

By: David Adetitun*

“My country sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

 Akhwari competed in the Olympic marathon in Mexico City in 1968. This Tanzanian athlete cramped up due to the high altitude of the city. He had not experienced such an altitude before. At the 19 km point during the 42 km race, some runners hit him, he fell and got injured. He nevertheless continued running. He finished last among the about 60 competitors who completed the race (75 started). The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 26 seconds. Akhwari finished in 3 hours, 25 minutes and 27 seconds. By this time only a few thousand people were left in the stadium and the sun had set. A television crew was sent out from the medal ceremony when word was received that there was one more runner about to finish.

As he finally crossed the finish line a cheer came from the small crowd. 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.”

A Yoruba proverb has it that “Ibere ki se onise, a fi eni ti o ba fi oriti titi de opin.” Implying that starters are not the ones worthy of applause but the ones who endure till the end are worthy of real praise. In reality we have so many starters but few finishers. Reasons for not finishing well or not finishing at all are variegated and any one can give those reasons.

Akhwari had all excuses at his disposal not to finish at all, but he refused to give in. Instead he sought out an undeniable and inspiring excuse why he must finish. And finish he did. He has been invited to several other Olympics as a special guest (even when he was not competing) for his determination in 1968.  His name is much known than today than even the gold medalist at that race!

Some parents blame their kids for their failures while some children blame their parents. Some people blame their country or government for their inability to finish. These blame games blind people’s eyes to opportunities that are lying fallow seeking some to pick them up and become renown. In the midst of the blame, someone here and there is breaking through and finishing.

In Numbers 13:30, Caleb stilled the people before Moses and said, “let us go up at once for we are well able.” Just that speech made him a different man out of the bulk of 12. “I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day, the night cometh then no man can work” (John 9:4).

As we read this; being a great mix of domestic and international students and scholars, what are your plans?

Is it to stop half way to success or to finish?

Remember, “My country sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

*David is a visiting scholar from Nigeria. He has participated in a variety of Wesley programs, including our Holiday Meals and International Choir. Back home, he is deeply engaged in Christian community and outreach.

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