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.