Ask me what my favourite Olympic memory is and I could tell you in an instant…
The men’s 400 metres semi-final.
British athlete, Derek Redmond, was in good form, had posted the quickest time in all the heats, and was one of the favourites for a medal. He left the blocks well, but 150 metres into the race his hamstring snapped, and in agony, he fell to the track. His Olympic dream shattered.
The crowd of 65,000 looked on as the stretcher bearers made their way onto the track toward him. But, Redmond determinedly got up, set on finishing the race. Fighting through the pain and the tears he began hobbling the remaining 250 metres.
But that’s not what I remember most. In fact, it’s what happened next that has forever been etched into my memory.
Somewhere in the crowd, Derek Redmond’s father knew he had to help his son. Forcing his way past the security guards, Jim Redmond ran out onto the track, supported his son, and helped him to finish the race. To a standing ovation, it didn’t matter that Derek Redmond finished so far behind the other competitors, or that he was disqualified for technically receiving support. What mattered was that he had finished the race.
As I reflect on this Olympic moment…the tender support of a loving father helping his son complete the race…I think of how the apostle Paul exhorts us to “run the race” (1 Corinthians 9:24ff, ESV). Of how the writer to the Hebrews instructs us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely”, and to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, ESV). But mostly, I think of how the writer to the Hebrews encourages us to “consider how we may spur one another on” as we run the race together (Hebrews 10:24, NIV) and I find myself reflecting on those who come alongside to spur me on in my journey of faith.
Like Gordon, a pastor who encouraged me in my young faith through his gifts of sermons on cassette each week.
And Erik, who initiated weekly meetings with me to pray and read the Bible together.
Or Matt, who God brought into my life for a season to offer me godly counsel and wisdom.
There are countless others who’ve cheered from the stands, wanting and urging me to give it my all.
Let’s face it; we all need the encouragement and support of others as we run the race of faith. Everyone has experienced those moments when we’ve tripped up one too many times and feel like giving up after the pain makes us weary. Without the cheers of those supporters to spur us on, I wonder where we would be.
Why not take a moment to pause and reflect and give thanks for those God has used in your own life, to help you run the race. Perhaps even send them a note of gratitude for the impact they have had in your life. Also, ask God to show you those people who just might need some cheering on from yourself to finish their race.
If you want to see the 1992 400-metre semi-final, watch on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFKpZnok10s.