Endurance is becoming extinct in this must-have-it-now culture. Simply put, endurance is the ability to do something over a long period of time. It automatically includes challenges, difficulty, and pain. So many in this generation (and I am not excluding the older folk of this generation) want to avoid pain and difficulty as much as possible. Whatever you do in life, finish strong.
I found this picture of my son running at a track meet at the age of 5. I put him in track because his hyper-energy needed an outlet, and a co-worker convinced me to join his track club. This particular track team in Long Beach was huge and very competitive. There were many athletes who were competitive in their age division within their region and even at the state level. The 5-year olds just graduated from the “lollipop” races that got the parents to smile and cheer.
There are 2 things that are clear in my memories of that track season. First, my son’s uniform draped over him like a robe. Secondly, my son hated the starting gun. At the beginning of each 200 meter race, he would plug his ears with his fingers and most of the time would miss the actual sound of the gun. The coach would run up to my son and yell, “Run Christian!” In every one of those races for almost the entirety of the track season, he would end up 8th out of 8 places. Sometimes he would cross the finish line walking. One time, he ended the race walking and crying while I held his hand as we crossed the finish line together.
At one of the last events of the season, I remember hearing the parents of the his teammates encouraging him to run his very best and that all that mattered was that he finish his race. I wish I could tell you that I gave him a spirited speech, but I think the other parents were the true source of his inspiration.
Once again at the start of the race, my son plugged his ears. The gun went off. Christian stood there. The other 7 runners took off. The coach ran up my son and yelled, “Run Christian!” My son took off as if someone laced his Gatorade with turbo boost. Even though the pack had at least a 10 meter head start, Christian gained on them immediately.
With 100 meters to go the pack had thinned out. The elite 5-year old runners were well ahead of the pack to finish with medals, but in the back of the pack, my son had the 7th place runner within reach and caught him at the halfway point. The entire group of parents on our track club stood up cheering at the top of their lungs, “Run Christian!” The entire group of parents from the boy battling my son for 7th place cheered for their boy as loud as they could.
With 50 meters to go, the rest of the crowd did what they normally did for only the premier races with the top athletes. The crowd stood up to their feet and cheered wildly for the 2 little boys battling for the last place.
I saw my son barely one length ahead of the other boy as they neared the finish line as I screamed as loud as I could, “Run Christian!” I remembered jumping up and down on the bleachers looking up at the parents with tears running down their faces as I had tears run down mine. I realized that in this particular race, it wasn’t going to matter who finished 7th and 8th place. Their spirit and determination to win inspired a stadium of witnesses. They were both winners.
It’s time we need to finish strong in the face of difficulty and even pain. You may not finish in 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd, but finish and finish strong. I’m in the stands cheering you on, “Run!”