When I was in my late forties I ran two miles a day. It was a joy to run on the rural Georgia roads, enjoying the clouds overhead and the delightful smell of honeysuckle by the side of the road.
I was told of a 5k race in a small town near where I lived. I’m not sure how far 5k is, but I think it’s about 3 miles. I thought, “Why not?” so I signed up and showed up that Saturday, to find it was raining. Not pouring down rain—at least not all the time—but the rain did not scare me. It did apparently scare some people, as not many showed up for the event.
I began running on rural roads with which I was not familiar, but fortunately someone had placed signs on the road that directed everyone along the course. The rain rarely stopped, but it actually cooled down my sweating body. I noticed that there didn’t seem to be too many people running, but my mind was focused on completing the race. I saw the finish line ahead, crossed it, and was proclaimed the winner! My first competition and I received a medal! But where were the other runners? The only other person running arrived shortly—a boy about ten years old!
A week or two later I learned of another 5k race, in a small city not far from my home. This race was a competition between businesses, so each person ran less for personal glory and more for the sake of the business of which they were part. There were only a few competing for my business—a local college—but I was glad to do my part. I would also learn how “good” I really was. I expected a let down, as I could not see any ten-year-olds competing.
I told a friend about the competition, a friend who had some affiliation with the college, and I encouraged her to sign up. She resisted this idea intensely, but I told her she might win some points for the college, no matter how she placed. She complained about the humiliation of not winning, and I told her I didn’t expect to win either. Finally she gave in and signed up.
My expectation of not winning was confirmed within the first minute of the run. A half dozen people immediately passed me, but I kept to my familiar pace and didn’t stop. I lost track of the friend I had talked into competing. Eventually I crossed the finish line, after many others had done so, and I looked around for my friend. I finally found her, now walking the course. She told me she was quitting. I told her, “You’re almost finished, you can’t quit now. It’s not very far,” and I pointed to the finish line ahead. “You can do this,” I told her. She argued with me, but finally gave in and began a slow jog toward the finish line.
I stayed with her until I heard the announcement on the loudspeaker that the results of the race were about to be announced. I ran a little faster to reach the judges’ table. I appealed to them, “There is still one contestant that has not yet completed the race.” I pointed to my friend, and they began looking at one another. They stopped their calculations long enough for my friend to finish.
A judge announced, “Folks, we have some unexpected results for today’s race. There were two businesses that tied for first place, but the last contestant provided the deciding point.” I knew where that single point came from. And she did as well.
The moral of the story is that as a registrant you may feel that you always come in last. But no matter how you place you can still win the race. You may not see your efforts at FAC paying off, but none of us sees the whole picture. More is happening than what we know. None of us can predict how the “race” will turn out. If you only see your opponents, you probably are looking in the wrong direction. Keep your eyes on the finish line, and finish well—no matter how you place.
The goal in life is to finish well by doing what is worthwhile and needed. Finishing well means giving it all you have while you have a chance. And even if you place last, you might win the race for others that you are with or those in the next generation. Racially based slavery required many years and thousands of people to be overcome. It is said that the first will be last and the last will be first. That might apply to your work with—and for—other registrants in ways you may not be able to imagine.