Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: At Wit’s End (02/13/14)
TITLE: Run To Victory
By Jeff Lockshin
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“Five minutes to the start of the two mile run...” That blaring announcement always shook my inward parts to the brink of nausea. Sure it’s natural to feel nervous before participating in an athletic event, especially when you know you’ll end up at the finish line near to or in last place.
It was late in the season, next to last dual meet before the post-season conference and state championships. I had not won a race all year not even a second or third, not even close. Frankly, I was glad the whole thing was almost over. I looked forward to liberation from grueling practice sessions and relief from the shame of suffering regularly the “agony of defeat.” “Let’s face it; I just don’t have it. This running thing is not for me. I came out for this silly track team only because my buddies talked me into it. They’re doing well, competing and winning some, but not me.” The fact that disturbed me most was that I knew my closest friends were disappointed in me. I was a loser on the track team; therefore, I believed they thought the same of me as a person.
The gun went off. I assumed my usual spot near the rear of the pack for the eight tedious laps around a gritty track. Near the end of lap six, I was shocked out of my ennui by the shrill voice of our coach. “You’re in fourth place, you can catch the guy in third…move faster, faster!”
The “guy in third place” was at least a half a lap ahead of me and seemed to be moving along well. “No way.” I snickered to myself. Then to my surprise and dismay, a host of others in choir-like unison joined the coach’s urgent shrieking. “C’mon, c’mon you can do it, catch him!”
I hustled the pace a bit. “They don’t get it; I really don’t care if I catch this guy. I don’t want to put forth the effort, for what?” The choir grew louder. In response, I hurried the pace a bit more. I noticed the gap between the third place runner and me was less, but still appeared insurmountable….
“Go, Go!” The singing encouragement had now grown to include most of my teammates and many of the moderate crowd of onlookers. “Dang crowd why don’t they mind someone else’s race. Now I can’t quit, too many will know. Still loath to do what I knew I should do, had to do, for myself for the crowd, I relented deciding to make the effort. “Either I catch this guy or die. “ The beginning signs of nausea circled about me like vultures eyeing carrion. There was about a lap and a half to the finish. I sprinted, my heart pounding to the rhythm of my steps, my sight fixed on the jersey of the one who I was now determined to surpass. Exhaustion uttered its multitudes. “Quit, stop, and walk off the track, no one will blame you, go ahead. ” No inner voice offered a counter argument. However, as muffled as their rattle sounded to me now, the crowd continued its encouragement.
Physically I was totally drained, at my wit’s end. Yet, abruptly a compelling force took control of my leadened legs while in full gallop. My feet were moving fast, faster, fastest …. I felt as if my mind had left the premises, and when it departed from my body remained nearby solely as an unassuming observer. My legs were full astride on autopilot. I had heard about athletes who experienced this state of consciousness, while believing they had nothing left, some unknown presence takes over the physical action of their performance. This was happening to me, and it sustained me all the way to the finish line in third place.
If this account were fiction I might end this narrative by describing how I won the remainder of my races that season and went on to win the state two-mile championship. Nevertheless, this is non- fiction and that did not happen!
Amidst the many lessons, one could learn from such an experience by far the most poignant one I absorbed many years later. Regardless of the circumstances, if you should ever be at your wit’s end, do not quit. We serve a mighty God who will run the race with us to victory.
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