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The Race

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes engages coaches and athletes to grow in their faith and sport.

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The Race


Verses to read: Hebrews 12:1-3

In the 1948 Olympic Games, a gifted long distance runner named Emil Zatopek had trained for the 5,000- and the 10,000-meter races. It was obvious to all spectators that Emil had come ready to run. He was focused. He was determined. When he placed himself at the 10,000-meter box, he was ready. When the starting gun was fired, he bolted out of his stance like a caged animal who had finally been released. His prowess earned him the gold medal for that race.

When Emil came to the 5,000-meter race, he was confident of victory. After all, he had run the 10,000 meters so well. When the runners crossed the finish line, however, he was second. Emil felt that he had failed. He had come to win gold alone. He vowed to train harder and win the gold in the 1952 Olympics.

In 1952, Emil Zatopek ran the 5,000- and the 10,000-meter races and won gold medals in both events. But Emil was not finished running. He chose to compete in the marathon event. His fellow runners felt it was foolish to try to compete in a race that he had never run before. But Emil was confident. He told reporters he would stay with the head runner and never let him go.

Emil kept that promise and dogged the head runner for most of the race. At the 17-mile marker, when most runners hit a fatigue point called “the wall,” the head runner looked back at Emil and asked, “Is the pace too fast?” Emil replied in broken English, “No, pace too slow.” At that point he passed the runner and never looked back, winning the gold in the marathon! When he finally caught his breath, the reporters asked him how he could run a race so well that he had never run before. Emil replied, “In my preparations for the games, I ran and I ran and I ran until I was exhausted. Then I began to train!”

Paul exhorted Timothy to “endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:3). We need to train spiritually to run this marathon called life. It takes discipline. It takes focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. It means studying God’s Word and spending time with Him in prayer. To paraphrase Emil Zatopek, we need to study and to study and to study—and when we are finished studying, we need to drop to our knees and train some more. Then, like the apostle Paul, we can say, “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

  1. How do you rebound from unexpected losses?

  2. How do you encourage your coaching staff defeat?

  3. How so we “run the race with endurance?”

    Extra Bible reading: Titus 1: 8 and 2 Timothy 2: 15