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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)

By stephen rhoades



“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that day.” (II Timothy 4:7-80).
Nestled in the patchwork quilt-colored hills of the Susquehanna Valley in northeast Pennsylvania, each Thanksgiving there is a race. It’s not a marathon, not even a half marathon. If I remember correctly, it is 9.6 miles of rolling foliage and rugged hills. In 1985 the “Run for the Diamonds” celebrated its 75th anniversary. In normal years the race promoters gave every registered runner a free T-shirt just for entering, but that year every finisher received a commemorative brass key chain.
When the newspaper announced that each finisher would collect more than just a T-shirt, I couldn’t resist. I was never much on running long distances. In my opinion anything longer than 400 meters is cruel and unusual punishment. On this day I banished that thought, stepped outside my comfort zone and tackled this footrace through the foothills.
My first challenge was what to wear. Not being a “real” runner, my wardrobe wasn’t stocked with the fineries of spandex Adidas leggons, running shorts, nor a fancy brightly-colored shirt. I wore soccer shorts and a T-shirt that said, “POWER” in big letters and the words “I can do all things through Christ” scripted underneath. Fitting apparel for a preacher with one thing on his mind: finishing!
Eleven hundred runners came to run that day. Most of them were running for a chance at the diamond rings that were awarded for the first two places. I came for a key chain, nothing more, and certainly nothing less! We all gathered at the corner of First and Market, 100 yards from the Susquehanna River. The gun sounded and off we went, up Market Street for a mile. Then the river of runners snaked out of town. Friends told me I should practice on the course, but I never found the time. It wasn’t very long before I recognized that I should have listened. The first three miles of this course were all up hill. Not steep, just grimly gradual. Just as my lungs began to burn and my brain began to bargain with my body, a young girl came flying by and said, “Guess your gonna need two of those power shirts today, huh?” She wasn’t a little child; she was old enough to know better than to insult a wheezing geezer! I was offended and immediately spoke back to my brain, “We will finish!!” The next two miles were flat and gradually downhill. I had numerous arguments with my lungs and legs for the next hour, but I just kept placing one aching foot in front of the other. Five miles, six, seven and then eight. About this time I came upon that same young girl who had insulted me on my first uphill grind. I still had a mile to go, but I felt a rush of adrenaline like I had never experienced before. I was almost in a full sprint when I caught and passed her. What would I say as I whizzed by? I decided it would be just enough to slow down long enough for her to have to read my shirt just one more time. Anyway, I didn’t need to say anything. I wasn’t running this race for her; I was running it for the key-chain.
A few minutes later I finished the race, zigzagged my way through the awards line, got my time and place (none of your business), and was handed my brass key-chain. To this day I still haven’t used it. It means something to me. I finished. I didn’t RACE..I ran. I didn't come in first...I just finished. Life lessons have a way of making their point without saying a word. A coveted keychain speaks to to me often. FINISH! There’s a prize that’s waiting.

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This article has been read 314 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Yvonne Blake 09/18/08
Good description of a running race! It would help the reader if you put an extra space between paragraphs. Nice message.
Valarie Sullivan09/19/08
I loved how your body parts were talking to each other! And 'more respect for a wheezing geezer'! Great!
Watch for repetitive words like at the very bottom, there is "to to".
Liked the way your brought out the determination to finish.
(none of my business, indeed!) :)