As I continued running along the rim of the mountain. I again saw the great stadium. As I ran, I looked down at the great coliseum and I saw the road that led into the arena.
There on the road I saw a man. The old man who had helped me. The old man of the mountain. He was bent over but he was still moving forward. He was tired and he was old, but he still walked steadily toward the open gate, toward the playing field.
As I ran I watched him enter and saw the faces of every spectator and the faces of every participant as they watched the old man stumble across the field.
Some laughed and some cheered and some cried out in loud voices. For forty years he had been gone, forty years ago he left and now he returns, old and battered and beaten.
I heard their cries but I didn't understand. If one runs fast one could surely finish quickly. One could easily do this course in a very short time. A short time indeed.
Then as I watched the old man, I saw the coach walking, no running toward him. When the old man saw the face of the coach and saw the coach's smile, his stumbling ceased. His staggering was over. And the old man wasn't old any more. He leaped, no, he bounded into the arms of his coach.
There was joy in his face and joy in his heart. There was joy in the heart of his coach. But the people watching, the spectators and the participants didn't notice. The novelty of the old man had faded. They amused themselves with cheering and jeering and concerned themselves with other things.
But I noticed as I ran how the coach lifted up the old man in his arms and the old man was young again. The coach held him up in the air as if to show the people the great joy at he had at the return of his runner.
As I ran I noticed for the first time the great clouds that hung over the arena. The kind of clouds that looked like faces, faces which were glad. Faces which smiled down on this joyous reunion and the coach who rejoiced at the return of his runner.
Then I ran behind a large stone precipice and lost sight of the arena for a few moments. When it returned again to my eyes I noticed that the man was gone. The coach was still smiling, the crowd was still busy, the participants were still playing, and the clouds were still watching. But now there was a new face among the clouds; the old man had gone home.
And so now I knew. Yes, I knew what was in store for those who ran and I understood what it meant to finish the course.
That is the last glimpse I have had of the great meet, for the road turned sharply in the other direction away from the arena and away from the cloud of witnesses.
My heart was heavy for I thought again of the great crowd, of the spectators and the players. For every 1,000 spectators there was one who became a participant. And for every 100 participants, there was only one who became a runner. It was a sobering thought. A staggering thought to a new runner. It was quite a responsibility to be one who runs, one who carries the news. I vowed to carry it everywhere. As fast as I could I would carry the news of the gift. I would be the best and maybe the fastest runner to ever run his course. For I knew what was in store for me at the finish.
Yes, I was a runner. And I ran and I ran shouting my warning and passing out tickets. I ran through the meadows and over the hills and down in the valleys. I ran in the city and in the country.
Then one day near sunset, I ran into a wanderer and knocked him over as I had once been knocked over. As I bent over to help him I heard myself say those same enchanting words, "So late, so late. Broad is the way, narrow is the way. Hurry, must finish. So late, so late."
I, too had still been guilty of running -- of running for the sake of running. Taking pride in who I was. Yes, I was doing the same things which the first runner had done to me. I didn't have time to help for I was too concerned with winning. But there's more to a race than winning. In fact, this wasn't a race of speed, but a race of endurance. Of patience. I knew that now. I really knew it.
I wasn't running the race properly. I was frustrated trying to be first when my task was to finish. To run a good race, to finish the course. To do that which was set before me.
As I reached down to help the wanderer, I realized my true mission. My true purpose. "Come," I said, "let me help. Let me show you the way." That old man who had taken the time to show me the way was right.
There's more to running than running. A lot more, and he, too, though he was gone forty years, was still a runner. A runner who finished his course as I must finish mine.