TV producer Bud Greenman was packing away his gear following the 1968 Mexico City Marathon. It had been over an hour since he had preserved for posterity the elegance and poise of the iconic Ethioian runner Mamo Wolde as he cruised, almost effortlessly across the finish line in a time of 2:20:26.
An assistant came running up to him yelling
‘There’s one left. You ought to film him’.
And sure enough, into the darkened and almost deserted stadium, hobbled a heavily bandaged and clearly injured competitor. Each step caused him to wince painfully.
John Stephen Akhwani, the Tanzanian competitor, had fallen badly in the eleventh mile while jockeying for position. In the fall he dislocated his knee and badly damaged his shoulder as it was rammed against the pavement.
The few remaining spectators inside the stadium began to cheer and clap as Akhwani struggled to reach the finish line. As he crossed it, he fell for the second time, clutching his knee in agony.
The crowd roared their acclaim.
Greenman had recorded every scintilla of that excruciatingly painful, courageous and emotional finish. In addition, he got to ask Akhwani why he bothered finishing given his injuries and that he couldn’t win.
‘Mr. Greenspan, I don’t think
you understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish it!’
Akhwani was the last to finish in 54th place but 75 started the race.
Winning is not nearly as important as its cracked up to be by society.
This year, Kerry failed to win the All Ireland and Kilkenny failed to win the Leinster Championship and all four Irish provinces lost their Heineken Cup matches
Long after the disappointment of those defeats has dissipated what will remain for the those who participated was the insatiable thrill of competing. It was what Pierre de Coubertin had in mind when founding the modern Olympic Games.
‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.’
And the same is true for each of us.
In the race of life there will be falls and injuries and days when things just don’t go our way.
The trick is always to have the SMACHT to pick yourself up and finish the race irrespective of time or position. In the final analysis, it’s the finishers who are the winners.
Happy Christmas from all at SMACHT. You’ve been a privilege to serve.
PS To begin 2013 in style why not get energised, educated and activated by participating with some awesome speakers. Check out SMACHT Mór on February 1st on http://omaille.ie/smacht-mor/ or ring Sara on 091 865340