Paula Ratcliffe of Great Britain set the women’s marathon world record in 2002, broke it in 2003, and was the odds on favorite to win the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
She started strong and was in the lead, but the 95 degree heat began to weigh heavily on her. At mile 22 of the 26.2 mile race, she suddenly stopped and sat down on a curb. She couldn’t finish. She put her head in her hands and began sobbing uncontrollably.
She was officially classified as DNF – Did Not Finish. A small Japanese woman crossed the finish line first for the gold, a Kenyan won silver, and an elated American finished third for bronze.
I remember the race vividly, not because of those who won at the top, but those who won at the bottom.
Luvasanlkhundegiin Otgonbavar (yes, that’s her actual name) from Mongolia, finished last, dead last. Everyone was through running long before her.
She just kept plodding along. At the end, she barely moved faster than a walk and was painfully favoring one leg over the other.
She was exhausted, but determined beyond measure. Agony radiated across her face with each excruciating step.
Thirty minutes after the next to last place finisher, the daughter of a camel and sheep herder limped into Olympic Stadium for the final circle on the track.
Many spectators had already left the stadium when she hobbled around the track, but those still there took note of her worthy effort to finish. They began to clap …. and cheer ….. and stand.
Tears were flowing down Luvasanlkhundegiin’s face when she finally crossed the finish line and fell into the arms of the race officials.
Amazingly, when she collapsed across the finish line, the crowd thunderously roared its approval for the last place finisher with the same enthusiasm, passion, and maybe even more admiration, than they had for the first place winner.
Some say there is no honor in last place, yet, she ran…and finished. There is always honor in finishing.
In the years of life’s marathon race, some run with ease.
Some struggle, but plod on.
Others stop, sit down, sob and quit.
There’s great wisdom in staying in life’s race, regardless of the direction the track has taken. The limps of hurt, rejection, illness, emotional scars, spiritual weakness, financial devastation, it goes on and on. It makes life seem to hard to take another step.
Moving at an exhausted snail’s pace doesn’t matter as much as one more step today, one more step, just one more step….
Life’s finish line may be years from now, or maybe, today. Regardless, the appointed finish line will come soon enough.
Don’t be a DNF in life. Stay in the race.
How you start the race is not nearly as important as how you finish. Keep running. Limp if need be. Crawl if you have to, but finish your race well!
There is victory in the finish.
Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. I Corinthians 9:24b, 25