IT'S NOT HOW YOU START BUT HOW YOU FINISH
Chariots of Fire . . . it's one of the greatest films of all time. It's based on a true story about a Scottish missionary and Olympian named Eric Liddell who competed in the 1924 Olympics. This classic cinematic piece captures history in a way that fuels the body, mind, and soul. It's rich with scenes that have the power to make you wonder and reinvigorate your life. The clip above is a short scene from this movie that captures the essence of determination, drive, and desire to succeed against all odds.
I've watched this scene dozens of times and I never tire of it. It highlights Liddell in a 400 meter race between Scotland & France leading up to the Olympics. In this event he starts off well and things are looking good. Unexpectedly, just after the first bend around the track, he collides with another runner and takes a fall as the rest of the competitors sprint ahead. Instead of jogging to the finish in last place or giving up entirely he decides to put it all on the line. He rises from his fall as if his life depends on it, starts sprinting, closes the gap of 20 meters, wins the race, and collapses shortly after in complete exhaustion.
Adding to the beauty of this moment a fellow countryman and Olympian, Harold Abrahams, is in the stands. He traveled to see his upcoming competition first hand. Naturally he's heard about Liddell but never has he seen him run. Watching the event unnerved him and led to the classic line in the movie where he tells his future coach his thoughts. He comments: "I've never seen such drive, such commitment in a runner. He runs like a wild animal. He unnerves me". To be honest I'd feel the same way if I knew I was running against such an individual; Coming from behind to win is the norm for long distances not sprinting race.
It's common place to reel in a front runner during a marathon or other endurance events (10k, 5k, 3k, etc.). Once you start reducing the length of a race to middle distances such as the 3,000 m, 1 mile, or 800 m events, catching up becomes more and more difficult as the race gets shorter. Liddell ran in a 400 meter dash, which is one lap around the track and considered a sprint. He ran and fell then ran and won, he should have lost.
"Life's a marathon not a sprint" - Anonymous
Yes, there may be times in life where you need to sprint, where you need to seize the moment and burst through the temporary finish line. In fact there will be many of those moments. But in the grand scheme of things life's a marathon. You may not win every race in the same fashion as above but what matters is that you press on and try your best in every moment. The key is to keep going. It doesn't matter how fast you go just so long as you go.
Life will throw you many curve balls along the way that will slow you down and even bring you to a complete stop. Thankfully such spontaneous happenings ultimately force you to improvise, adapt, and overcome. In turn, you grow and develop endurance. The pressures of life will also help you realize what's truly important in your life and the lives of those around you. Liddell spoke a message everywhere he went that was more important to him than mere running. Surely he enjoyed running but he also thought of it as a metaphor. He challenged those around him to think of life as if it were a race itself, to look beyond our selfish ways towards something greater.
Running was symbolic for him, a way to honor God, and a way to inspire those watching and listening to live a full life; he ran to speak a message of Truth, something greater than sport. You may not be religious as Liddell was or equate life to faith, and that's fine. However, what we can all learn from this movie, this scene, and Eric's Liddell's life is that winning isn't about rank, social status, and worldly honor . . . winning is finishing the race.
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