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Achieving the Impossible

To appreciate the need for perseverance in achieving ideals.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To appreciate the need for perseverance in achieving ideals.

Preparation and materials

  • A pair of trainers and tracksuit could be worn.
  • You will need 8 children, dressed for running with letters on their backs spelling 'marathon', prepared for the 'script' in 1.
  • Also a reader for the Bible verse.


  1. Introduce the theme by running on the spot, together with the team of 8 children (who are in order so as to spell 'marathon' when they turn their backs), and having the following conversation with them:

    How long can you run on the spot? 3 minutes?

    Children: Yes!

    What about 3 hours?

    Children: 3 hours?!

    I'm getting tired.

    Children: Don't give up!

    How far can you run? Twice around the playground?

    Children: Yes!

    What about 26 miles?

    Children: 26 miles?!

    I'm getting tired.

    Children: Don't give up!

    There's a running race that's 26 miles long. It will take you at least 3 hours to finish. Even the best runners take over 2 hours. It's called (children turn their backs to reveal the letters) a marathon!

  2. All stop jogging. Ask whether any of the children watched the London Marathon (in April) on television. What impressed them most?

  3. Think about the crowds who cheered the runners on, saying 'Don't give up'. Talk about the tired runners who must have felt their legs wobbling as they neared the end of the course. Knowing that they hadn't got far to go, they didn't give up.

    Talk about other runners (some in fancy dress) who were raising money for their chosen charities. It must have been hot inside those heavy costumes but the thought of those they were helping meant that they didn't give up!

    Point out that wheelchair athletes compete in the marathon. Injuries and disability are no reasons to give up!

  4. Explain that the London Marathon was first held in 1981, after a man called Chris Brasher took part in a marathon in New York. Afterwards he wrote of his experience saying, 'To believe this story, you must believe that the human race can be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible.'

    One of the aims of the London Marathon is to 'provide some happiness and sense of achievement in a troubled world'. The marathon demonstrates that little will be achieved without perseverance. In order to run so far training is vital. That means jogging regularly for many months before the race. It involves running longer distances once a week, increasing the distance each time until 26 miles is reached. Perseverance means spending long hours exercising and practising before the race itself. Both in the training and the race itself, you mustn't give up!

  5. Explain that marathons were run in the Greek games, centuries ago at the time of Jesus, and were known to St Paul. St Paul's letters are in the Bible. He wrote words of encouragement, saying: 'I have done my best in the race. I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith' (2 Timothy 4.7).

    Or, to put it more simply, 'Whatever I've done, I've not given up!'

  6. Invite the children to consider the challenges a new term presents. There are many other things that we do which are not easy, besides running. Many tasks require practice and commitment. Can the children think of examples? The marathon reminds us that together we can help and encourage one another. We can achieve things that seem impossible, if we don't give up!

Time for reflection

Dear God,
Give us strength
of body, mind and spirit,
to face new challenges,
to keep trying
and to realize our potential.


'One more step' (Come and Praise, 47)

Publication date: May 2002   (Vol.4 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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