A Good Beginning Deserves a Strong Finish

for the week of July 30, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

The 2001 Peachtree a 6.2-mile run in Atlanta, Georgia was won by John Korir of Kenya. His winning time of 28 minutes 19 seconds was not a new record for the annual event. But the circumstance of his winning was the most extraordinary by far in the history of the race. It is also something of a parable about staying with a task until it has been completed. Here's the story . . .

Alene Emere of Ethiopia won the 2000 Peachtree and was certainly one of the favorites this time. He was leading, in fact, with only about a quarter mile to go. He got confused by a crosswalk and bridge where photographers crowd together to take photos of runners nearing the tape. Emere mistook the gang with cameras for the finish line, raised his arms in triumph, and came to a dead stop!

He realized his error when someone screamed, "No, no, no. Go!" He tried to regain his position at the head of the line of runners, but it was too late. He didn't have the energy to catch Korir and finished four seconds behind him. What he had thought was a photo finish had turned into an embarrassing loss.

The tendency to claim victory too soon has embarrassed more than one runner on the course of life. Starting a business without adequate capital, vision, or stamina for the tough times is very different from making that business into a success. Many a person has begun a career with altruistic enthusiasm only to be distracted by early praise. Praise became conceit. Conceit turned into careless negligence of duty. What started so well ended in disaster.

It happens even more often in relationships. The wedding was beautiful, but the marriage quickly became a catastrophe. Everybody was excited about the birth of such a beautiful baby but too busy to make her feel secure, take her to Sunday School, and teach her about becoming a woman of faith and virtue.

Maybe that's why the Bible has so many encouragements couched in the language of athletic competition. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?" (1 Corinthians 9:24). "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1b). "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

It was the late Duke Ellington who once said, "Life has two rules: 1. Never quit! 2. Always remember Rule Number 1."

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