On December 2, 2012, in a cross country competition held in Burlada Spain, Ivan Fernandez was about to finish a distant second behind Oympic Bronze medalist Abel Mutai, from Kenya.
In the final moments, however, Ivan saw something that didn’t make sense.
Just a few steps short of the finish line, Mutai stopped running. He had misread a sign and thought the race was over, but there were still 10 meters to go.
Ivan called out to Abel, encouraging him to continue forward, but since the two athletes don’t speak a common language, Abel couldn’t understand what Ivan was saying.
What should Ivan have done next, given the circumstances?
He could have passed his competitor by, easily taking first place for himself.
Instead, when he caught up with Mutai, he remained a step behind as he motioned him toward the proper finish line. The race ended as it should have: Abel Mutai was awarded first place; Ivan Fernandez came in second.
What an inspiring, heartwarming example of sportsmanship. No wonder this story is still making the rounds, eight years later.
Running to win…
Recently I mentioned this story to a friend, who said with a laugh, “Clearly, Ivan’s life verse is not ‘run in such a way as to win the prize.’” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
But, then again, maybe it is.
Maybe Ivan Fernandez understands, better than most, where the race is really taking place.
Maybe he understands, better than most, what winning really looks like.
When asked why he would make such a choice to surrender an easy prize, Ivan was quoted as saying…
“My dream is that someday we can have a kind of community life where we push and help each other to win.”
In this race we’ve been called to run, winning the prize means that we make it our objective never to cross the finish line alone.
There may be someone running the race near you — to the left or to the right; slightly ahead or slightly behind — and today you’ll have the chance to nudge them onward.
Winning the prize, in this part of the race, means that we win it together.