The Character of a Champion

Of the many Olympic events, to win the Marathon is one of the most prestigious. Yet in the 1968 Olympic Marathon, it is not the winner, the one who finished first, who is most remembered, but the runner who finished last.

Darkness was falling. Only a few thousand spectators remained in the stadium. The Marathon had been won over an hour earlier. Now, as the last of the spectators were leaving, their attention was suddenly drawn to the sound of police sirens and whistles at the marathon gates.

Out of the cold darkness, John Stephen Akhwari, wearing the colors of Tanzania, entered at the far end of the stadium, painfully hobbling, his leg bloody and bandaged.

Earlier, several miles into the race, Akhwari had found himself trapped in the middle of some runners. Unable to see well, he fell and severely injured his knee and ankle. He watched in anguish as the other racers continued. But he didn’t give up there.

Grimacing with every step, he now painfully hobbles around the 400 meter track, eventually crosses the finish line and collapses–the last man to finish the marathon.

The spectators rise and applaud him – saluting the man’s determination. Without looking back, Akhwari quietly walked off the field. Later, when asked why he did not quit, he replied, “My country did not send me 7000 miles away to start the race. They sent me 7000 miles to finish it.”

Akhwari was never awarded a medal. They don’t hand out awards for perseverance at the Olympics. Yet few remember who won the gold in the 1968 Marathon. Instead they remember John Stephen Awkwari — the runner whose determination and perseverance represented the true character of a Champion.

Anyone can start something, But true Champions finish what they start!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
-Hebrews 12:1

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