March 19, 2014

Finish with Purpose!

Inspired by the success of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, the first L. A. Marathon was run in 1986. On March 9, the 29th edition of the L. A. Marathon was contested. The field of over 12,000 runners included 182 “legacy runners” who had completed every single L. A. Marathon. Amongst these 182 runners, who’s sole purpose was to continue their streak, stood a man just shy of his 80th birthday. A man aiming to finish with purpose!

Stan was an accomplished marathoner having competed in nearly 60 races during his running career that started after he turned 40, including running in the Boston Marathon.

In 2013, Stan had finished 3rd in his age class and had his sights set on finishing first in 2014. Ten days before the race Stan pulled a hamstring muscle, while cross-training, on a road bike . On race day, he was still in pain and his pre-race preparation included having his daughter put his crutches in the car.

Family and friends set up at mile nine to encourage Stan. They knew Stan was struggling because he was way behind his normal pace. As he approached, he was laboring and in obvious pain. He asked his daughter to get his crutches. There was no chance they were going to talk Stan into quitting; with 100,705 feet to go, he continued the race on crutches.

Stan crossed the finish line in 6:35:10. Nearly 80 years old, hobbling on crutches, he finished 10th in his age class out of 25 runners, ahead of 3,917 other runners, and is already making plans to line up for the the 30th edition of the L. A. Marathon as a “legacy runner.”

“If the word quit is part of your vocabulary, then the word finish is likely not.”

—B. G. Jett

When a running buddy of Stan told me this story, it grabbed my full attention. Why would a man nearly 80 years of age choose to complete such a demanding race on crutches? Even if his streak had ended Stan would have drawn praise and applause for an incredible feat of completing 28 consecutive L.A. Marathons.

There are four great lessons in Stan’s marathon journey.

  • Never give up hope. Maintaining an unwavering mental commitment that the best is yet to come, regardless of present circumstances is powerful.
  • It is not how you start, but how you finish. The starting line for every pursuit is crowded. As the race unfolds and challenges and adversity present themselves, we must keep our eye on the finish line. Great finishers don’t do it for the applause.
  • Resolve to do your best. With whatever measure you use, it will be measured to you. We can draw energy to persist when we acknowledge that when we look in the mirror we may be looking at our biggest enemy.
  • Don’t let age get in the way. We are never too young or too old to attempt something great. I am regularly reminded that God does not call the equipped but equips the called.

“For every finish-line tape a runner breaks - complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras - there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.”

—Grete Waitz

ACTION? Identify one thing you need to either get started or finish and invest one hour this week to build a plan to do it.

What are you going to finish? What would you like me to write about that would help or encourage you?

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