The Race [Poem]

25 Mar

I enjoy writing and reading poetry. This is a lengthy poem but well worth the time spent to read it.

I used to not be able to read it without crying because of issues with my dad – feeling like I never measured up; always looking for his approval, etc.

Dad was a senior chief in the US Navy. A respectable, honorable man. A man who provided for our family and was faithful to my mom. He took our family camping and ate dinners with us. He brought us to church and cultivated a respect for women in my brother and I.

I guess this post is, in essence, letting go of the childhood resentment I had for my dad. We never really clicked for whatever reason. It’s still kind of a precarious relationship.

I remember my dad’s “depression” and sadness. He was never diagnosed with depression, but I see the manifestations with what I deal with in my own life. I see them more clearly after the research I’ve done into my own condition. I don’t have memories of him smiling or laughing.

Maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe it was my depression that clouded things? Made me feel shut out. Made my life gray. My dad was a good dad. He wasn’t perfect, but he always tried to do what was right…what was honorable. He was human. He was a man.

I remember writing a suicide note when I was in middle school. I had a razor blade on my desk and was going to end my life. My dad walked in and sat on my bed. “What are you doing?” he asked calmly. I told him what I was doing and he asked why. “Because I always let you and mom down” I replied. I don’t remember anything after that but for some reason I always struggled with my low self esteem for years. Yes, even now as a 41 year old man.

Anyways, once I started teaching high school I read this poem to my students on the first day of every school year. For nine years.

I’m not sure what the point of this introduction is but I hope this poem finds a place in your heart like it did mine.

I think I’ll call my dad today and tell him that he was a good dad, and that I love him.

I love you dad.


As quoted from A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

The Race


“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!”

They shout out 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.


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, to 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 dad will be so proud.”

But as he 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.

But as he fell his dad stood up

And showed his anxious face,

Which to the boy so clearly said:

“Get up and win the race!”

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 that the 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 he jumped up 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 gained eight or ten,

But trying so hard to catch the lead

He slipped and fell again!

Defeat! He lay 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 not more than this:

To rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to win 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.

Three times he’d fallen stumbling:

Three times he’d rose again.

Too far behind to hope to win

He still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner

As he crossed 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 won the

Race to listen to the crowd.

And to his dad he sadly said,

“I didn’t do so well.”

“To me you won,” his father said.

“You rose each time you fell.”



And 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:



Posted by on 03/25/2015 in Poetry


Tags: ,

6 responses to “The Race [Poem]

  1. Mom of 3

    03/25/2015 at 18:52

    I love this-I’m going to print this out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. magicallymad

    03/25/2015 at 16:44

    What a sweet poem, but I can see how you used to tear up reading it. I hope your call with your Dad is rewarding for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mistakenldy

    03/25/2015 at 16:15

    awesomesauce Surviving’!!

    Liked by 1 person


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