“You can’t really measure heart.”
An iconic Olympics story: John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania struggled to complete the 1968 Olympic marathon after he fell in the race and dislocated his knee. He pushed through the pain and completed his marathon one hour after the race had been won. The reporters were packing up their gear when he limped over the finish line. One reporter asked him why he didn’t quit, he replied: “My country did not send me to 5,000 miles to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
This “never give in” attitude earned John the title, “A King without crown.” He competed for 10 years after the 1968 Olympics and came in 5th in the marathon at the 1970 Commonwealth Games. He went on to sponsor a foundation that helps Tanzanian athletes train for the Olympics.*
What courage! In the face of impending defeat, with runners leaving him in the dust, John dug deep and found the heart to keep going, mile after mile. So when we hit an obstacle, we try to think our way out of it instead of feeling our way out of it and tapping into our heart wisdom and power. To encourage means to “give heart” — and that’s why it’s so important that we give each other support and strength.
What grit! Can you imagine running mile after mile with a dislocated knee? Every step must have been painful, but John put the pain aside and focused on his goal: finishing the race. He must have drawn on deep reserves of determination to stay the course.
What spirit! To me, John’s story shows the true spirit of a champion — someone who gives full effort — who doesn’t hold back — whatever the circumstances. John came to the Olympics from Tanzania to compete in and complete the marathon. Achieving his goal in the face of pain and makes him a champion in my book.
The Olympics are swimming in stories: Behind every athlete at the games — 11,000 of them — there’s a story. May they inspire us to write on!
* This inspiring tale comes to us from my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline (973.743.4690).