Track & Field: 4 Lessons From The Relay Race

From a spectators standpoint, a track meet can seem like organized chaos.  There are athletes running on the track, walking in the stands, warming up in the parking lot, jumping, throwing, and socializing with other athletes.  If you attend enough meets, you begin to realize that there is a method and organization to the entire meet.

As a father, my favorite events are the one in which my kids are competing.  There nothing quite like cheering on your own kids.  Besides that, I especially love watching the relay races.  It’s fun to watch teammates cheering each other on, running as fast as possible, and passing the baton to their teammate.  A well polished relay team is so amazing to watch as the baton flows around the track from one athlete to the next to the next.

For those of you unfamiliar with relay racing at a typical track meet, the race is made of four legs each run by a different runner on the same team.  At the high school level, the typical relay races are the 4 x 100 (each runner runs one-quarter of the track), the 4 x 800 (each runner runs two laps of the track), and the 4 x 400 (each runner runs one lap of the track).

As I watched the relay races from the season, it was obvious which teams at practiced together and which teams needed a lot of work.  If I looked more closely at the relay race, I came up with 4 Lessons From The Relay Race that we can apply to everyday life:

  1. It takes a team effort.  It’s highly unlikely that one runner running the whole race could beat a team of four who have fresh legs.  Runners have to work together.  Each person on the team plays a key role in the effort and success of the whole.  In life, it is somewhat similar.  You play an important role in the body of Christ.  The body will not operate properly without YOU!  Paul talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthians:  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  I Corinthians 12:21-26
  2. The baton pass is critical.  Races are won and lost based on the pass of the baton.  There is a transfer of momentum from one runner to the next.  If a runner drops the baton, the race is over.  Each runner must run all the way through the transfer zone in order to make the most of each exchange.  In life, we will have opportunities to receive the baton from those who run before us, and we will eventually have the opportunity to pass the baton to those coming behind us.  In family life, my parents and grandparents have done an incredible job passing the baton to me at appropriate times, and it’s my responsibility to do the same for my kids (and eventually grandkids).  At work, it’s the same.  And in our spiritual lives, it’s important to have mentors in our lives along with people who we can mentor.
  3. Teammates cheer each other on.  Especially at the 4 x 400 relay race which typically ends each meet, the track is lined with teammates cheering as loud as they can for their fellow athletes.  The encouragement makes an incredible difference in the outcome of the race.  In life, we need to surround ourselves with others who can cheer us on.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24  We were not meant to run the race of life in isolation.  We were meant for community.
  4. We need an anchor.  The 4th (and last) runner of each relay team is called the anchor.  This runner is typically the strongest, fastest runner on the team.  He is sometimes called upon to make up any difference left by the previous three runners.  It’s his job to leave it all on the track and to find any way possible to win.  We have an anchor – Jesus Christ.  He would go to any lengths to see us to the finish.  (In fact, He did this on the cross.)  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:1-8

What lessons could you add to the list above?  How have you experienced these relay lessons in your own life?  What baton are you currently carrying?  How are you preparing to pass the baton?