The Slowest Marathon
The record for slowest marathon time was recorded in a race where one would least expect a slow time: the Olympics! The race started in 1912 in Stockholm, Sweden. It finished, much, much later.
Shizo Kanakuri was a star Japanese athlete, and he was fast. He could finish a marathon in about two and a half hours. However, several things went wrong for him leading up to this race. Travel logistics had not been well planned out. He arrived in Stockholm exhausted rather than refreshed. The foreign food he received didn’t help his digestion. Ultimately, he became ill just a few days before the race. Still, he ran. He gave it his all until somewhere during the race he passed out and disappeared.
Hours turned into days with still no sign of Shizo. The Swedes had no idea what had happened to him. They declared him a missing person and considered him an unsolved mystery.
Not many people knew that a farmer had found Shizo and taken him into his home. Shizo was ashamed of his failure. Japan expected him to win, not pass out. Disgraced, he did not return home with the other Olympians. He slunk back to his country with no fanfare and without the knowledge of the Olympic officials. Fifty years passed before the Swedes discovered Shizo was alive and well. When they learned what had happened, they made arrangements for him to return to their country and finish the race, which he did. His final time was fifty-four years, eight months, six days, five hours, thirty-two minutes and 20.3 seconds.
The record for slowest marathon will likely never be broken. But should we consider Shizo a failure for being the slowest? Sure, he didn’t win a medal, but he ran. And more importantly, he finished the race, even if it did take him several decades to do so.
The life of a Christian is compared to a race (I Cor. 9:24; Gal. 5:7; Phil. 2:16; II Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1). Paul rejoiced and took comfort that he had “finished the course” (II Tim. 4:7). Doing this requires two things.
First, you can’t finish the race if you don’t start. A lot had gone wrong for Shizo at the beginning of the race, but he started anyway. In the same way, many people make all sorts of excuses for not becoming a Christian. They fear they won’t be perfect, and they’re right, they won’t be. But just as you cannot finish a race without starting, you cannot make it to heaven if you don’t begin your Christian journey.
Second, you can’t finish the race if you quit. For a long time, Shizo seemed destined to never finish that race. What happened to him was embarrassing. But eventually, setting all of that aside, a very old man picked up where his younger self had quit and finished the race. Christians sometimes get off track and fall away. That is bad, but nothing is worse for a Christian than to quit. We must finish the course!
If there were a record for slowest person to get to heaven (or person who stumbled the most or had the most difficult times, etc) the record would not be a shameful thing. After all, the person will still have made it to heaven! If you ever get off course, if you ever faint along the way, then get up, dust yourself off, and start running again. Run again, even if it has been five decades or more since you quit.