The Greatest Last Place Finish Ever

In honor of the Olympics, I’d like to share one of my favorite inspirational stories/photos ever:


John Stephen Akhwari, Olympics, 1968

Mexico City, 1968 – Out of the cold darkness he came.  John Stephen Akhwari, of Tanzania, entered at the far end of the stadium, pain hobbling his every step, his leg bloody and bandaged.  The winner of the Olympic marathon had been declared over an hour earlier.  Only a few spectators remained.  But the lone runner pressed on.  As he crossed the finish line, the small crowd roared out its appreciation.  Afterward, a reporter asked the runner why he had not retired from the race, since he had no chance of winning.  He seemed confused by the question.  Finally, he answered: “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race.  They sent me to finish.”


I have kept a poster of this man in my office for more than a decade. The profound truth of Akhwari’s words make me break into goosebumps every time.


I’m prone to give up, to look at the odds stacked against me and decide to cut my losses.


But there are things worth fighting for, aren’t there? Reasons to persevere that don’t make sense in the face of reality… and yet, when we follow through on our promises, like Akhwari, we send a message that can be heard world-wide.


May all of your own races be finished well…

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