Music and the Spoken Word

Courage to Endure - Sunday, November 1, 2015



Long-distance runner John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City with an unforgettable performance in the marathon. He did not set a new world record. He did not even earn a medal. In fact, by the time he crossed the finish line, the sun had set, the winner had been crowned over an hour earlier, and most of the fans had left the stadium. But Akhwari’s performance still inspires to this day.

Earlier in the race, while jockeying with other runners for position, Akhwari was knocked to the ground, badly injuring his knee and shoulder. He had every reason to pull out, just as 18 of the 75 other athletes did by the time the race was over. But “a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on.”1

A cheer rose up from the small crowd that welcomed Akhwari as he limped across the finish line in last place, the makeshift bandage on his knee flapping in the wind. He was fatigued, cramping, dehydrated, and disoriented, but he had finished. When asked why he would continue running a race he knew he had already lost, Akhwari replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”2

John Stephen Akhwari was able to endure because he had a clear vision of his purpose. His decision to finish the race did not come after his devastating fall; enduring to the end was a decision he made long before he was injured, long before he left Tanzania. He trained to be a finisher, not just a participant, and so he kept going.

In the decades since that summer evening in 1968, John Stephen Akhwari’s words and example continue to inspire countless athletes—and many others who have a challenging race to run. His story teaches us that sometimes winning simply means finishing. It teaches us that we can make it through life’s rough spots one step, one day, at a time. It teaches us to decide now that we will endure with courage and honor to the end of life’s marathon.

-Lloyd D. Newell

1. In Robert D. Hales, “Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure,” Ensign, May 1998, 76.
2. See “John Stephen Akhwari,” olympic.org/news/john-stephen-akhwari-marathon-men-athletics/209041.

Nov. 1, 2015
Broadcast Number 4,494

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square

Conductor
Ryan Murphy

Organist
Clay Christiansen

Host
Lloyd Newell

How Firm a Foundation
Attributed to J. Ellis; arr. Mack Wilberg

Shall We Gather at the River?
Robert Lowry; arr. Ryan Murphy

Arioso
Johann Sebastian Bach; transcribed by Clay Christiansen

Pavane
Gabriel Fauré; arr. Nathan Hofheins

You Raise Me Up
Rolf Løvland and Brendan Graham; arr. Nathan Hofheins

Sing Praise to Him
Traditional hymn tune; arr. Mack Wilberg