top of page

Second Place is the First Loser and That's OK

On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister did the impossible. It was long believed that it was not humanly possible to run a sub 4 minute mile. The physical challenges were too great and the mental hurdles were too insurmountable. But, at Iffley Road track in Oxford, Roger Bannister finished his 1 mile run in exactly 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. For this feat, he is often recognized as the most famous record-setter in the mile. Sports Illustrated was so impressed by this tremendous achievement that they developed a new award, Sportsperson of the Year, to be handed out annually to "the athlete or team whose performance that year embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement". Bannister was the first inaugural winner of this award. Future recipients include Sandy Koufax, Muhammand Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, and Peyton Manning just to name a few. Roger Bannister was the first to do the "impossible", but he wasn't the last. Since then over 500 runners have been able to achieve this unbelievable feat.

Photo courtesy of Times Newspapers LTD

What is surprising to some is that Roger Bannister did not accomplish this on his own. If you look at the picture of Roger Bannister crossing the finish line you can see a man who was trailing Roger by only a few seconds. At first glance, you might assume that this is a disappointed competitor who just missed his chance at history; however, when you dig a little deeper you find out that this runner, Christoper Chataway, was not an adversary but rather a partner. Roger Bannister was a talented runner, but he lacked the self-discipline to accurately pace himself during his race for history. Chataway and Bannister decided that this task could only be accomplished through teamwork. Chataway set the pace for Bannister for the first 3/4 of a mile, but by design and physical limitations he began to fade during that last quarter-mile. His job was to make sure Roger completed each quarter mile in a certain time frame to make sure that he had enough energy to finish the race with the ferocity that would be needed to get his name forever cemented in the history books. Chataway sacrificed his own fame in order to help Roger Bannister achieve his.

This reminds me of another often forgotten "helper" we find in the Bible. In the book of Acts we see the well-known story of Saul of Tarsus and his miraculous conversion on the Damascus road. Paul, newly named after his salvation experience, is now the most notable New Testament writer, seeing he penned roughly two-thirds of its content. But did you know that Paul did not get to that place of prominence alone? After Paul's conversion, he was ready to go preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he faced an "impossible" hurdle. He had to convince the Apostles (Peter, John, James, etc.) that he was truly a believer. That is where our "helper" comes into the story. Paul meets a man named Joses. You may know him by his nickname, Barnabas. The Apostles gave him this name because Barnabas means Son of Encouragement. He had a reputation of being an encouragement to everyone he met. The Apostles loved Barnabas, I mean who doesn't love someone who is always encouraging you? But they certainly had their doubts about Paul. After all, this was the same man who stood watch as Stephen was stoned to death and the man who by his own admission made it his life's work to destroy the Church (Body of Christ). So Paul needed a "helper", someone to put in a good word for him with the Apostles. Barnabas, the guy who was always seeing the best in people, put his arm around Paul and said "this is my brother in Christ". The Apostles responded by saying if he's good with Barnabas, he's good with us! Barnabas wasn't looking for fame. He didn't have a drive or need to be first. He just wanted to help, even if that meant he didn't get the glory.

Lord, I pray that I would pattern my walk with you after my brother Barnabas. Help me to put myself and my pride aside and ask "who can I help or encourage today". Let me live a life that counts, not for my self-interests but one that glorifies you even if that means I have to come in second place...

131 views0 comments


bottom of page