Sometimes to just finish a race is to win it.
March 19, 2013
Some are not.
We live on a circle on the edge of a college campus. Marathon (or at least a shorter version of a true marathon) runners, who are raising money for worthy causes, often jog around our pleasant, tree-lined street, since it is part of designated marathon routes. We live not too far from the marathon, on-campus finish line.
I usually wait until long after the runners have left our street to set off by car on my errands. I do not want to get in the way of the runners.
One morning, I did this as usual, only to soon come upon the last of the participants.
The woman runner was well into the winter of her life, her days of optimum physical strength obviously long ago having abandoned her.
She was bringing up the rear. She was struggling to try to finish the marathon, her legs painfully wobbling more and more as she slowly put one tiny foot in front of her other tiny foot.
Surely she was exhausted. But she would not quit. She kept at it. No doubt she wanted to stop. Still, she persevered. She knew what she wanted to do, had to do, must do.
A police motorcycle officer patiently followed ever-so-slowly, escorting her, protecting her, weaving the motorcycle – its red and blue lights flashing – from side to side across the street, to keep the cycle balanced.
Watching her as I crept along behind the shielding motorcycle police escort, I thought she surely would have to stop, her energy drained, and to limp to the curb to sit, exhausted.
To give up.
I was wrong. She kept pushing, one slow, unsure, shaky step after the next slow, unsure, shaky step.
Somehow, she eventually made it to the finish line – where the marathon winners already were proudly holding their ribbons, where all the other marathon finishers were rejoicing at their completed task and rejuvenating their tired bodies with their hard-earned refreshments.
The escort police officer gave her a snappy salute, then went on.
The runners who had long since completed the race and who were standing about the finish line cheered her, then rushed into the street to greet her, to congratulate her, for they fully understood the heavy, demanding personal price of struggle and forced endurance and commitment she had paid to get there.
To be sure, she finished last.
But in the encouraged hearts and minds and judgment of those fortunate enough to see her complete the race, in a quite real way, she finished first.
Infinitely ahead of the pack.
And then some.