I love to watch speed skating. Not the newer short track version that is held on a hockey rink and whose races are truly wild and crazy, dangerous and absolutely captivating. No, what I really enjoy watching is the long-track races that are held on the enormous ovals that can easily circle around two regular hockey rinks.
It isn’t just the raw athleticism and competitive spirit that is interesting, it is also the strategy that is used to win. Like most things in life, there is more than one way to the top, and when it comes to speed skating at the Olympics, the longest race is 10,000 meters. That is a long distance, and it lends itself to a lot of experimentation and strategy. Long distance races like this aren’t the exclusive domain of speed skating, but unlike say, a marathon race or a long bike race or even the Summer Olympic equivalent 10k running race – the finish line for the team speed skating sprint is not the same for each competitor. Your finish line and your opponent’s finish line are each on the opposite side of that 400 meter track, making racing to the line a solo event and extremely difficult to gage by sight if you are closer to the line than your opponent.
Life is a lot like that too – knowing exactly where you are in comparison to the location of the finish line is a big challenge. Few of us will ever be given the luxury (or curse?) of seeing that final line approach, and when it is in sight, what is the best strategy to employ? Do you sprint on, head down in an all-out burst of energy, will and drive to the point where you kick your leg forward across that line no matter what? Or do you hold up, stretch up and take in the view of all that is around you, the world whipping by at top speed as you, that one precious carbon spark from God’s creation, streaking across the air – blazing brightly, seemingly undefeatable until suddenly your blinding glow is gone?
The good news is; life isn’t a race. There’s no prize for ending early or going long. Yes, there is Heaven, and it’s a great reward, but I think that The Bible is deliberately vague about it simply because it is not what we are to focus on while we’re here on Earth. It’s the race, stupid. Yes, there is the joy and celebration of achieving the podium, but I don’t know any athlete who would happily take first place if it meant not being able to compete to achieve it. Such a victory is empty and meaningless and far less fulfilling than the experience of the competitor who finishes dead last. Funny pun, but a race fought and lost is far more fulfilling than a race avoided. So my encouragement to you is to run with all your might and chase down your dreams and desires with integrity and joy. Life is going to whip by far faster than you know and that finish line is roaring up, so take Solomon’s wisdom from Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 into your heart and go!