American Pharoah. If you have followed sports and national news recently, you know the story. Misspelled though his name may be, the thoroughbred is horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. What an amazing feat by a marvelous creature. But it pales somewhat when I recall another horse that won that Triple Crown back in 1973. His name was Secretariat.
I am old enough to remember Secretariat well. He won all three races — The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and the Belmont — in record times that still stand today. In his victory in the Belmont, he led by 1/16 of a mile coming down the backstretch and finished an amazing 31 lengths ahead of his nearest competitor. But his most impressive run may have been in the Kentucky Derby that year.
In his Derby effort, Secretariat broke slow out of the gate, but still ran the first quarter mile of the race in a respectable 251⁄5 seconds. The second quarter mile was faster at 24 seconds. The third quarter mile went by in 234⁄5 – he was still accelerating. The fourth quarter mile was faster still at 232⁄5 seconds. And the last quarter mile was run at the blistering pace of 23 seconds flat. He was still accelerating as he crossed the finish line!!!
I pray for a heart like Secretariat’s to finish strong in the spiritual race that ends at the throne of God. To be able to run harder at the end than at the beginning would be such a joy. And like the great apostle Paul, my hope is to “finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24). Fairly late in Paul’s life he wrote, “I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven” (Phil 3:14, CEV).
No one knows exactly how far along they are in their race. But for me, I am certain that I am near the final turn — perhaps even now on the backstretch. With every stride, a voice within seems to say, “Run harder!” Let the one who holds my bridle use the whip as often as He needs to keep me moving faster and faster. “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:132).
“Run harder!” Three crowns await – a heavenly triple crown!
- The crown of glory. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).
- The crown of life. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
- The crown of righteousness. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
“You know that many runners enter a race,
and only one of them wins the prize.
So run to win!
Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last,
but we do it for a crown that will last forever.”
(1 Corinthians 9:24-25, CEV)
As you contemplate running your race, you might enjoy watching Secretariat in his 1973 efforts in the Belmont and Kentucky Derby. Run hard. Finish with joy!
– Steve Klein