The Race

The Race is a favorite poem of mine. Written by Dr. D.H. (Dee) Groberg, this is the perfect poem that inspires the reader to keep going, even in our darkest periods.

So take your place at the starting blocks, and prepare to strive to win the race.

The poem

Let's go over the poem, breaking it down a bit.

Looking back

The poem is told by a man looking back on a race in his boyhood. This race became a source of inspiration for him when things he feels like quitting.

Quit! Give Up! You’re beaten!”

They shout at me and plead.

There’s just too much against you now.

This time you can’t succeed.”

And as I start to hang my head

In front of failure’s face,

My downward fall is broken by

The memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will

As I recall that scene;

For just the thought of that short race

Rejuvenates my being.

High expectations meet heartbreak

As the poem continues, we go back in time to the start of a race. The race begins like any other; the contestants feel a mix of excitement, the hope of glory, and fear that they won't be in the winner's circle. So too, their friends and family watching the race, hoping to see their son, brother, friend, etc. be the winner.

The race begins!

One boy, in his eagerness, trips and falls. His instant reaction is to lose all hope. He is now the object of public embarrassment.

A children’s race–young boys, young men–

How I remember well.

Excitement, sure! But also fear;

It wasn’t hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope

Each thought to win that race.

Or tie for first, or if not that,

At least take second place.

And fathers watched from off the side

Each cheering for his son.

And each boy hoped to show his dad

That he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went

Young hearts and hopes afire.

To win and be the hero there

Was each young boy’s desire.

And one boy in particular

Whose dad was in the crowd

Was running near the lead and thought:

My did will be so proud!”

But as they speeded down the field

Across a shallow dip,

The little boy who thought to win

Lost his step and slipped.

Trying hard to catch himself

His hands flew out to brace,

And mid the laughter of the crowd

He fell flat on his face.

So down he fell and with him hope

He couldn’t win it now–

Embarrassed, sad, he only wished

To disappear somehow.

Beaten, but not defeated

Immediately upon falling, the boy's father gets up and tells his son to get up and finish the race. Encouraged, the boy gets up and makes his best effort to continue the race.

But he keeps falling down.

Again, and again.

But he still hears his father and keeps going.

He quickly rose, no damage done,

Behind a bit, that’s all–

And ran with all his mind and might

To make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself

To catch up and to win–

His mind went faster than his legs:

He slipped and fell again!

He wished then he had quit before

With only one disgrace.

I’m hopeless as a runner now;

I shouldn’t try to race.”

But in the laughing crowd he searched

And found his father’s face;

That steady look which said again:

Get up and win the race!”

So up he jumped to try again

Ten yards behind the last–

If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought,

I’ve got to move real fast.”

Exerting everything he had

He regained eight or ten,

But trying so hard to catch the lead

He slipped and fell again!

Defeat! He lied there silently

A tear dropped from his eye–

There’s no sense running anymore;

Three strikes: I’m out! Why try!”

The will to rise had disappeared;

All hope had fled away;

So far behind, so error prone;

A loser all the way.

I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought

I’ll live with my disgrace.”

But then he thought about his dad

Who soon he’d have to face.

Get up,” an echo sounded low.

Get up and take your place;

You were not meant for failure here.

Get up and win the race.”

With borrowed will get up,” it said,

You haven’t lost at all.

For winning is no more than this:

To rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to run once more,

And with a new commit

He resolved that win or lose

At least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now,

The most he’d ever been–

Still he gave it all he had

And ran as though to win.

Hail the conquering hero

Despite all his falling downs, he finishes the race – and to an end he did not figure on. True, there would be no winner's prize for him. But what he received was far more. The crowd, moved by his spirit and perseverance, gives him the loudest cheer of all the runners.

But best of all, he receives praise from his father. What higher praise for a boy?

And too, a great life lesson.

Three times he’d fallen, stumbling;

Three times he rose again;

Too far behind to hope to win

He still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner

As he crossed the line first place.

Head high, and proud, and happy;

No falling, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster

Crossed the line last place,

The crowd gave him the greater cheer,

For finishing the race.

And even though he came in last

With head bowed low, unproud,

You would have thought he’d won the race

To listen to the crowd.

And to his dad he sadly said,

I didn’t do too well.”

To me, you won,” his father said.

You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and hard

And difficult to face,

The memory of that little boy

Helps me in my race.

For all of life is like that race,

With ups and downs and all.

And all you have to do to win,

Is rise each time you fall.

Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!”

They still shout in my face.

But another voice within me says:


A personal view

Often in life, we think of the race only going to the swiftest, and the battle only to the strong. It is the final, single winner that gets the spotlight.

To be sure, there's a place for all this. But this poem reminds us of the virtue of heroic perseverance. Sometimes the quest for great things will have its setbacks and tragedies.

The message here is not to let these things derail you from the prize you seek.

Win or lose, by pursuing your quest, you still grow in becoming a better person.

This is truly a great life lesson.

Great books

The Go-Getter: A Story That Tells You How to Be One

A delightful, short book by Peter B. Kyne about a veteran, Bill peck, returning from the Great War missing an arm. His perseverance and go-getting attitude are inspirational—also a delightful read.

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