the 50 Year Marathon

The year was 1911 when Japanese marathon runner Shizo Kanakuri competed in the domestic qualifying trials for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Kanakuri set a marathon world record and, as a result, was selected as one of only two athletes that Japan could afford to send to the event that year.

Imagine the surprise then when Kanakuri started the race, but he never finished. Why? He disappeared during the Olympic marathon race. What he started, he was never seen as finishing.

It was a rough trip for Kanakuri as it started with an 18-day-long trip to Stockholm – first by ship, then by train, and he needed five days to recover from the race. The problem? He never fully recovered. Weakened by the long journey from Japan, he lost consciousness midway through the race and was cared for by a local family who found him on the side of the road. Embarrassed from his “failure,” he returned to Japan and never notified the Olympic race officials.

For 50 years, Swedish authorities considered him missing before discovering that he was living in Japan. Imagine his surprise when, in 1967, he was given an opportunity to complete his run. He accepted and finished the marathon in 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes, and 20.3 seconds. Upon finishing the race, Kanakuri was asked how it felt. He replied, “It was a long trip! Along the way, I got married, had six children and ten grandchildren.”

I love that story.

What began as a race, appeared to have ended in what Shizo saw as a failure. Yet, there was a redemption story and a race that was begging to be finished! Brings to mind, Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Eyes on Jesus, friend. If there’s breath in your lungs, there’s grace that meets and a race set before you.

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