Race for Last Place

by Mary Ann Spencer

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    Winning doesn’t always mean coming in ahead of everyone else.

    It was the day of my first race and I had come early to register and stretch out. I planned to run the 5K alone because I wasn’t very fast.

    Then I saw the first counselor in the bishopric of my college ward, an experienced runner, among the gathering crowd. Just as he recognized me, the officials called all runners to the starting line. He asked if I was running with anyone. I said I wasn’t and admitted that, although I had been training for two months, all I hoped for was to finish the race. He offered to run with me and I accepted. I was delighted to have some company.

    The gun sounded and we started off slowly. He was by my side the entire time. We talked about future races, the upcoming term in school, and his past races. He told me how he had used the “Boy Scout pace” to finish his first few races. He would run 50 steps, then walk 25 steps, until he could run the entire distance. It sounded strange to me, but since he was a much more experienced runner, I agreed as I got tired to finish the race this way.

    As we rounded the final corner it was obvious that we were the last two runners. I sprinted to the finish line. But my running companion must have sensed my fear of being the last runner because he stayed behind. When we met after the race, he smiled and congratulated me on a good run.

    I was touched that he was willing to take last place, so I wouldn’t have to. My ward leader taught me a lot about humility, service, and the pure love of Christ during that short race. Moroni’s words now have greater meaning for me when I read, “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own. … Wherefore … if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth” (Moro. 7:45–46).

    Photography by John Luke