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By Jim Wehrheim
The majority of the other runners entered in this particular race despite their young age, ran with much more natural ability and talent than my little boy. Once the race began, he was quickly beaten out of the starting blocks and got "smoked", finishing dead last.
As he toddled across the finish line far behind the others, I felt love for my son, concern for his feelings, and a competitiveness of my own I hadn't felt rise up within me since my days as a former sprinter on my college track team nearly twenty years before. "Come on son, let's go home and work on some things."
For the next thirteen years, until he graduated from high school, he continued to labor under the watchful eye of his obsessive compulsive "Sports Dad" who constantly reminded him "God wasn't finished building him yet," "80% of life was showing up," "The cream will always rise to the top," and eventually, the "Tortoise would beat the Hare".
Frequently whenever he was racing, I would aim and focus the lens of my video camera only on him and not the other runners who were far out in front. I told him I did this so we could study and look for ways to improve his "biomechanics" (arm and leg motions) which was partly true, however I did it to keep him from feeling humiliated and discouraged so he wouldn't lose faith in himself and give up trying.
Whenever he ran we always looked for the positive side to his many defeats and talked up little victories such as coming in 2nd to last! 3rd from last! And on good days getting a ribbon for finishing in 5th place!
Once in the 4th grade, I telephoned a private track coach in the area to solicit his help. This coach had formed his own track club and was known for training and taking kids to "big meets." When he asked me about my son's best times, I proudly announced that he held the 4th grade school record at his private Christian Academy for the 200 meter dash in 36.7 seconds. The coach's response was cruel at best; "I got little girls who can run faster than that," he snarled. He wasn't interested in coaching my son and our telephone conversation ended uneventfully.
It was about this time my son and I began the practice of writing scripture verses from the Bible inside his track shoes. 1 Corinthians 9:24 "Run to win the prize", 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Run to give God Glory" and my favorite, Habakkuk 3:19 "When you make the Lord your strength, he'll give you the feet of a deer." If Wes won a race, it would have to be God who helped him.
By the time he finished 8th grade, his name didn't appear on a list that was published by his Junior High showing the "Top Five" runners from his school in each event. In spite of this, he continued on with his training, which included; stretching, weight training, wind sprints up hills, plyometric box jumping, crunch's, summer track meets, and praying before his races.
One night at a large relay track meet during his sophomore year of high school, he was selected to run a "leg' on a varsity sprint relay team due to a shortage of available, older runners. Because of his age, he was considered the weak (slow) link on the relay team. Once the race began however, something happened when he got the baton I had never seen before. He took off like a Jack Rabbit and began challenging and passing other varsity runners! I was both stunned and thrilled at the same time. I leaped to my feet and cheered for him! I was so proud of him in the ten seconds it took him to hand the baton to the next runner. He not only survived the varsity race but also passed other runners in the process! From that moment on, he began pounding out victories in his specialty the 200-meter dash.
One of the funniest races I ever observed was one I couldn't see at all. In an early spring meet held outdoors in Northern Illinois where we lived, I strained to find and watch him run the 100-meter dash in a snowstorm! After the distant report and sound of the starters pistol, no one could see the runners until they crossed the finish line. From where we were standing, we could only hear their feet running toward us! Because of the bizarre weather conditions, it was nearly impossible to determine a winner.
In another race his junior year, he was racing a senior from a rival school who eventually would become both a Division 1 college and professional football player.
During the anticipated difficult race, his seven-year old brother and I stood in his track lane waiting for him thirty feet beyond the finish line. From the time the race began, we began to pray and ask God to put Angels behind him to push and blow him down the track as fast as possible. He narrowly won the race before running and falling into our waiting arms.
The large and muscular boy who he had beaten swore vengeance that he'd beat him the next time they raced. He even went so far as to send a vulgar message through his coaches to his coach threatening physical harm if they ever raced again.
He wanted no part of this and never responded back to the taunts and threats. Instead, he did his talking with his feet and his running on the track. When they did race again in the State Sectionals, Wes beat him for the second time in a row, keeping his opponent from advancing on to the State track meet. When the race was over, the bully walked off the track, leaned over the stadium fence and began to weep in frustration. He never threatened my son again.
That same year, he was cursed by another runner while standing and waiting for the command for all the runners to "take their marks" in their starting blocks. He told the other runner that "God didn't want him talking like that and if he won the 200 meter race, the other runner had to promise he would never use profanity again." Unimpressed the other runner swore and cursed at him again as they got down into their starting position.
Once the race began; it was over in the first ten yards. He ran so fast that day winning the 200-meter dash, his time and good grades captured the eye of the track coach at Duke University who offered him a scholarship to run for the Blue Devils! The track coaches at Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and Dartmouth also recruited him. He selected Duke, the first school who had selected him and became a Biochemistry Major.
He eventually shared this story along with his Christian testimony while standing before his high school graduating class as the top academic male student in his senior class. He was also; All-Conference, a State Qualifier in Track, and the fastest kid in school. I wanted the whole world to know that night how much I loved my son.
Every now and then I'll come across and find his ribbons, medals, plaques, and trophies, along with his decorated high school letter jacket that were put away in storage. I'll close my eyes, touch them and remember every race he ever ran. "Thank you God," I whisper, for all the prayers and hard work you answered and honored back then for my son.
I consider my son's development as a runner both a miracle and example of the power of prayer and God's love for his children. The promise in the words of the prophet Habakkuk is true "When you make the Lord your strength he WILL give you the feet of a deer" and much, much more.
Email Jim and let him know your thoughts on his story!
Jim Wehrheim lives in Carefree, Arizona and is President and Founder of Halftime Talks International, a ministry of exhortation and encouragement. Halftime Talks International was created after a series of personal tragic events that took place in Jim's life leaving him both devastated and in deep despair. To learn more about his story or if your looking for a public speaker who will exhort and coach your audiences to never give up and believe they can "Do all things through Christ who gives them strength", contact Jim for an inspiring halftime talk by visiting his website at: http://www.halftimetalks.com/ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
"There is no security in life, only opportunity."--Mark Twain
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."--Romans 8:28
"Believing in the Tooth Fairy is easier than trying to figure out how else the money gets under your pillow."
"By the time you talk your child into writing a thank-you note for a birthday gift, it's already broken."--Bruce Lansky
"Think all you speak, but speak not all you think. Your thoughts are your own, but your words are so no more."--Patrick Delany
"My task . is to make you hear, to make you feel and, above all, to make you
"If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around."
I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for the beautiful video you made for me! It was so special to see both of my parents in tears as they watched their children grow up in pictures before their eyes! I loved the way you made Estania's part set aside from the rest--that was the part that really got them! The music was beautiful. My mom kept blubbering, "What song is that?" I don't know how you did such a beautiful job with the video in such a short time. I really appreciate your doing it so quickly. You have a wonderful gift, and I thank God that you are using it to create such sentimental memories. I hope that I can find my niche like that in an area that I love. Your video gave us one of our most lasting Christmas memories! I hope yours was filled with moments to be treasured forever!
Let me make you a video from your photos!
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