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There IS No Last Place! - What I Learned from Ironman - Part 2

Monday, September 09, 2013

There IS no Last Place!

One of the things that I love most about Ironman is how everyone who finishes is celebrated. In fact, the very last finishers are the rockstars of the event. For the last hour before the midnight deadline, many of those who finished earlier in the day come back, wearing their medals and their compressions socks, to help cheer in the last few athletes. Rock music blares as the announcer whips the crowd into a frenzy – watching and waiting for the final finisher, willing them to get in on time. In many races, the first place finishers return to place medals around the necks of the last finishers. It is an event that truly celebrates perseverance.

This got me to thinking about a few things that I’ve learned over the past few years about coming in “last”. One that I love was passed along to me by a friend who is a competitive cross-country ski racer. He said that when his ski team finished last in an event they would say that they “outlasted the competition”. What a great way to look at it. For those of us who are slower athletes - why is it that we beat ourselves up about not being the fastest athletes in events? Why not celebrate the fact that long after the faster athletes are having a coffee and an ice bath we are still out there, slugging away and Never. Giving. Up.

My husband, who is one of those “natural runners” who can run a marathon in under 4 hours, ran alongside me for my first marathon last fall. I went in to the marathon with shin splints and came out of it with a stress fracture. Finishing meant being out there for almost six hours (5:45 to be exact) and by the end of the run the most painful thing on my body was my face (from grimacing so hard for so long). Afterwards, my husband said that he had new respect for “slow” runners because he’d never had a more painful marathon – the longer you are out there, the more of a pounding your body takes and the longer you have to manage your discomfort (or pain…). Marathon running does not need to be as ugly as my first experience (my Ironman marathon went much, much better), but it did remind me that athletes who “run long” test themselves in a way that athletes who “run fast” never have to. We’re not speedy, but man, are we ever tough!

Finally, one of my favourite sayings (I think I saw this one on Facebook) is: “Dead Last beats Did Not Finish beats Did Not Start”…to the end of that I’d add “beats Did Not Register”. I see so many people who don’t sign up for events because they are afraid that that they won’t do well. To that I say “who cares….register anyways!” Whether its your first 5K, graduating to a 10K, taking on a half-marathon or even taking on the full 26.2 miles, go ahead and take the plunge. Knowing that you have a goal race, you’ll be forced to google a training plan. If you don’t have time to do everything on the plan, don’t panic – you can adapt. Trust me, there will be lots of people like me right next to you…with kids and jobs and lives to juggle…who haven’t done every mile of the perfect training plan. If you get to the start line you’re already winning – you’ve beat everyone at home on the couch. Start moving, one foot in front of the other…and guess what, I bet that you’ll pass at least one person along the way. And if you don’t, well, you’ll just keep moving towards the finish line. That’s right, you will finish. And you can’t finish last because you’ve already beat everyone who didn’t sign up. And everyone who signed up but didn’t show up. And everyone who quit along the way. YOU ARE A FINISHER!!!

So, is there a weight-loss lesson in all of this? I think there is. For everyone out there beating yourselves up because the weight isn’t coming off at lightning speed (damn you Biggest Loser – why can’t we all lose 10lbs in a week in the real world?) or because you started a plan and had some hiccups and detours along the way – it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get to the finish line. You are strong because you keep trying. You have learned more about perseverance than those lucky folks who don’t struggle to lose weight. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other - you will get there and you will know so much more about yourself when you do.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BUTTERFLY-1976 9/16/2013 3:10PM

    I Love this Blog!!!

As a slower runner, I sometimes think of faster runners & wish I was fast like them. I then tell myself... they may be faster in speed, but I have endurance!!! It helps to remind me that..hey, I'm out here doing the same thing.

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ON2VICTORY 9/12/2013 5:39PM

    when you operate in the realm of 140.6, finishing is winning. great blog.

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ASHLING9 9/10/2013 11:41AM

  I've done a 72 mile skate charity event 2 years in a row now. The first year, the temperature was great and there were a lot of fast skaters that I ultimately hung in with and finished with a great time. This year, it was raining HARD and only one other skater decided to it and he was very recreational. I knew mentally we had to stay together. It took me almost 2 hours longer to finish and hurt SOOOO much more than finishing it faster.

I was a last place runner for almost 7 years before I developed some 'speed'. This post really hit home, thank you!

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OWL_20 9/10/2013 7:23AM

    YES! I'm in love with this blog. I may have to copy it and keep it somewhere to look at now and then. I'm training for a 10K--my first--and it is slooooow going. Not the training, just me. I have grander hopes of a half-marathon that were somewhat squashed from my last run (because while not awful, it wasn't the best)--but from this and a few SP friends, well, it's convinced me to take on step at a time--literally-- and try and go for it. And to enjoy myself along the way. So thanks for this!

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HONEYBADGERRUNS 9/9/2013 11:32PM

    great mind set - I think that people worry so much about what others think about their performance but I try hard to focus on the one thing I can control, "Was I better than last time?"
I was beating myself up because I didn't beat my previous time this weekend (and backslif a few minutes!), but i should have better perspective like your blog says - I did my darndest and crossed that line!

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MWWENSIN 9/9/2013 10:03PM

    Great points. Glad they wait for the last finisher in the ironman. That would be from 7 am to midnight right? Or did they go past midnight?

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SPARKLISE 9/9/2013 9:03PM

    emoticon blog!
I old feel the passion in your words all the way here! emoticon

Keep up the good work! emoticon

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RUNNERRACHEL 9/9/2013 8:59PM

    What an excellent blog!!!

As a slower runner, I never thought of it like that!

Celebrate our perseverance. Celebrate our heart, our desire. emoticon

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FITFOODIE806 9/9/2013 8:38PM

    Love this blog. Such a great perspective. I love the encouragement to just register. Who cares about the perfect training plan??! I needed this reminder today :)

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BOILHAM 9/9/2013 7:19PM

    What a great point of view. I love this blog. If you have a minute you might want to read my blog "World's Greatest Athlete - Not" wherein I grumble about how slow I am. I like your attitude better. You are right, we slower runners are out there longer and showing a lot of spunk, good for us!!

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LISAINMS 9/9/2013 4:53PM

    Yesterday I walked a half marathon with my husband. I would much rather run and be done that much sooner! I was tired of being out there, my hips were hurting (I'm not used to walking that much) and it was super hot. So I have a new appreciation for people who finish in the back. It's hard! I will do my first full IM next September. All of the other races I have done, it seems the last few people in get the most celebration. Most of us regroup at the finish to cheer them in. I think it is that community spirit that makes triathlon different and a reason why I really love it. Re: BL 10# weeks... if only!!

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BLUENOSE63 9/9/2013 4:50PM

  Wow, you must be wearing your smart pants today! Great post neighbour.....not that anything in there was directed to me emoticon

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IFDEEVARUNS2 9/9/2013 4:47PM

    Thanks, I needed this! You are so right! emoticon

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