Posted by: Andy | May 2, 2011

Finish Strong

If you haven’t heard, Stephanie and I are moving to Germany this Summer.  After a short vacation with friends in Turkey and a visit to the USA, we’ll be living in Frankfurt, Germany for a year, hopefully beginning in July or August 2011.

I counted before I went to work today, then posted it on Facebook.  I had 10 days, 14 classes and 44 hours of teaching left.  Now, you can cut that to 9 days, 13 classes and 41 hours and 20 minutes.

After approximately 2000 hours of teaching, I’m down to less than 42.  Wow.  It is rather surreal.  Be assured (especially if you were my student at any point) that I am going to miss teaching and I am going to miss the students, their questions, their ideas, their jokes and their smiles.

After I posted the countdown of days, classes and hours remaining, an old friend and former vocal and spiritual advisor of mine gave me the following advice: “An old coach’s wisdom…Finish strong.”

Finish strong.  Traditionally, I haven’t been good at that.  When I was a kid, I participated in Hershey’s Track and Field programs.  Indeed, my athletic prowess peaked at age 10 when I won the state championship in the 200 meter dash (for 9 and 10 year olds) with a time of 31.63 seconds, a time I barely improved on into high school and college.

While I won the 200 meter dash, my preference was for the 400m dash (which I placed third in that year).  I ran it very differently than everybody else though.

At age 10, having the stamina to run 400 meters at a dead sprint is rather difficult.  Most kids would start at a jog develop into a run and sprint to the finish.  I did the reverse.  I started as fast as I possibly could, gained a big lead and then just tried to hold on, using all of the energy I could find to finish the race.  Oftentimes, I won by intimidation.  I was so far ahead coming into the home stretch that catching me wasn’t possible unless I fell over.  At the state meet I turned the corner heading into the last 100 meters and discovered one kid was right next to me and we battled to the finish and I beat him.  Unfortunately two guys in another heat ran faster than us both.  That boy made me run my fastest time ever.  He challenged me to be better; he made me finish strong.

Into high school, I ran the 800 meter run in the same way.  I’d run the first 400 meters in 58 seconds, then get so tired that my second 400 meters would be 80 seconds.  In college cross country, it was the same.  My first mile would be six minutes.  My second would be seven minutes, and my last three would be eight minutes.

It’s how I live.  I start fast and get tired.  I can’t tell you how many novels and short stories I’ve had ideas for, written a few thousand words and just ran out of steam.

Pacing and balance have never really been my strong suits, so my friend’s advice could not have been spoken to a person who needed to hear them more.

We are certainly in the last 100 meters of our time here in Ankara.  Preparing for lessons, coming up with new ideas and giving the students a good lesson still have to be my top priority.  Despite my ever-growing to do list, I came to Ankara for the sake of relationships and what message would it send to fracture those relationships by being a bad teacher in my last two weeks.

I pray that the relationships I have built will continue and that my predisposition to finish poorly will be disposed of and not affect those relationships which are so very important to me.

May I encourage you to finish strong in every aspect of your life as well.



  1. Great message and hope you enjoy your time in Germany. I really like living here.

    • Thanks Laurel. We are certainly looking forward to it!

  2. […] as they were preparing to go back to the U.S. before moving to Germany, Andy Jones posted about finishing strong. Since he posted that, I’ve been thinking about how I can finish strong in Turkey, and part […]

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