I know this might sound strange to many of you but when I was a student at school I actually looked forward to the Cross Country season. Running was one of my great loves and I seemed to have a natural aptitude for the sport so participating in the school cross country was an opportunity for me to experience a level of success. The school I attended in high school was well known in the area for its sporting achievements and the cross country race was a hotly contested event.
I distinctly remember a time when I was about 14 years old and participated in a pre-race warm-up with some of the more “serious” runners at my school. One of the girls who was a little older than me began to boast about her running ability and made the bold prediction that she would win her race convincingly. I was a little taken aback by her level of certainty and was interested in seeing whether her performance matched her talk. As her race was before mine I watched with anticipation as the gun went off and she sprinted way ahead of the field for the first few hundred metres. As she was about to round the first corner she looked back at the crowd and with a smile on her face lifted both hands in the air pumping her fists in victory. I remember thinking, wow that seems a little premature, after all she was only 400 metres into a 4km race and there was a lot that could happen between now and the finish line.
As the time ticked by we could see the outline of the first few runners appear in the distance. As they came closer I struggled to locate my audacious friend amongst them and it soon became evident that she was not going to win this race. In fact, as the runners staggered over the finish line she was not amid the place-getters, nor was she in the top ten. A good couple of minutes after the winner had completed the race she jogged across the line, red faced, exhausted and more than a little embarrassed.
From watching this event unfold, I learned a life lesson that has stuck with me ever since. You see, for me, life is a lot like a cross country race and while getting a good start is important, it matters far more where we are positioned when we finally reach the finish line than where we are at the first bend. Navigating our way through life involves effort and there will inevitably be a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns along the way. Having endurance and the ability to stick to the course and not give up even when things get difficult will serve us better than short-lived bursts of effort every now and then.
In my experience both as a runner and in life, the most significant achievements always require perseverance and determination. Rarely does any lasting benefit come from things that are gained quickly and easily. My successes in running were the result of daily practice and regular training sessions that not only improved my fitness levels but also equipped me to handle different courses, terrains and weather conditions. Similarly, my greatest achievements in life have come after years of study and a commitment to seizing opportunities to learn and develop my skills. This type of dedication requires a long term focus, grit, determination and a lot of hard work. However, in the end, the results are always worth it.
The Apostle Paul also likens the life of a Christian to running a race. In Corinthians 9:24-26 he writes: “Don’t you realise that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step.”
At Cedars we encourage our students to live a life of purpose by not only setting goals but in developing the discipline required to achieve them. This discipline is one of the attributes that we nurture and value in Cedars’ students and is a characteristic that will help them to succeed in life both now and in the future.