Walking Our Faith: The world’s toughest race

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

I spent Saturday binge-watching the World’s Toughest Race series on Amazon.  

It is a 650-kilometer adventure race consisting of sailing, paddleboarding, hiking through jungles, swimming through dangerously cold water and repelling down waterfalls — all done with little or no sleep — over the course of three days for the most elite professional teams and 11 days for the amateur teams.

At the end, I was reminded of the words of Saint Paul:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” 2 Timothy 4:7.

And it occurred to me that the World’s Toughest Race is an excellent allegory for life.

Among the competitors was a father and son team. The father had competed in many of these races over the past two decades but had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the past year. His son gave up the opportunity to join a professional team in order to help his father experience one last race. 

As we watched their progress over the course, we discovered their journey was about more than overcoming the physical toll it took on the father’s body. It was about the loving bond between father and son, it was about a son returning the gift of athletic competition, and more importantly, it was about the love he had received from his father.

Others profiled included competitors who were coming to grips with the challenges of aging, had survived bouts of depression, had lost a parent to suicide or had lost a spouse to cancer.

For them, the race became a means to honor those they lost, test and then understand their resilience and face their limitations. Many times, healing of mental or emotional wounds unrelated to the race came as a result of the physical suffering they experienced.

And just as compelling as the athletes was the challenging environment in which they competed. The course became not something to master, but something that would reveal the core of each competitor.

The jungles, rivers, waterfalls and ocean were the perfect counterpoint to the kind people of Fiji: the children who cheered the athletes as they ran through their villages and the Fujian people who opened their homes to the athletes when they needed a place to rest, offered their horses to carry packs and acted as guides through the jungles.

When I consider the World’s Toughest Race as an allegory for our own lives, the island of Fiji is this planet we call home, the race is the course of our lives, and the lovely Fijian people are the angels and saints who cheer us on every step of the way, praying and offering encouragement that we might get up when we fall and press forward when we are exhausted to finish the race that God has set before us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1.

Our toughest race is to realize that we are all running the same course, even though no two lives will look the same, learning that we are here to love one another, to forgive one another.

The elite professional teams taught me that pressing through in the face of failure is the best way to finish the race, that moments of crisis are inevitable and that perseverance is always necessary.

I learned the most, though, from the amateur teams, which at times found themselves lost, exhausted and beyond the bounds of their training and experience. Yet they used the pain not as an excuse to give up but to discover the strength of their willingness to persist.

Time and again, these were the people who became leaders of their teams because their resilience became an inspiration to others.

As competitors neared the end, I understood the finish line is not the point at all. The journey, the lessons learned — who we are as individuals and how dearly we need one another to run our best race, to create our best lives — is the reward.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So, let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it,” Philippians 3:13-16 msg.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at

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