Finishing Last

“I’ll be the slowest one out there.”

“I’ll be last.”

In every race, someone has to finish last. True. And no one actually has it as a goal to finish last. Like Jennifer’s friend in this article I have often said “Chances are, that’s not going to happen.” I mean, come on, if there are 1000 runners in the race it is a 1:1000 chance right?

There are many runners at many levels who have expressed that fear to me. Beginning runners fear being last. Freshman college and freshman high school runners fear finishing last at their new competition level. Many runners racing a new (i.e. longer) distance fear being last. Runners coming out to a new running club fear being the slowest (aka “last”) in workouts. Masters runners (40+ years old) dropping down into an open track meet fear being last against all those young ones.

Let’s break this down a bit. Fears are borne out of illogical and disproportionate emphasis on the negative impact being last will have. Fears are also based on an emphasis on what “others might think”. And fears are about protecting our egos.

Think about this. If everyone gave into that fear then one by one the last person in a race would drop out to avoid finishing last. This would domino its way up the field until – there is just one person left – the leader of the race. Only one person can win. Only one person will be last.

To temper that fear of finishing last (however you define this) we need to change perspectives or reframe the situation. Stop. Take a deep breath. For a moment suspend your image of finishing last. Now reflect on the following questions.

  • Why do you run, for others or yourself?
  • What REALLY is the worst that would happen if you did finish last?
    • Do you really think you’ll be marked for life and everyone will point at you at Starbucks each morning whispering about how you were that last runner in this weekend’s race?
  • What would happen if you purposely finished last?
  • What do you gain – how do you grow – or what might you learn about yourself by racing (finishing last or otherwise)?
  • What if joining that running club/team (even if you are currently slower than others) is in fact the very thing you need to improve your running?
  • Is it possible that you will be seen as someone who dared; someone who dared to do something instead of sitting on the sidelines?
    • By fighting your fear you not only become your own inspiration but an inspiration to others as well.

It’s not a huge, unspeakable embarrassment. In fact, no one cares. Not one of the other runners remembers I was the one who finished last. And all my friends and family remember is I said I’d run a 5K and I did it… A couple of days after the 5K, when my aching legs felt better, I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. Because I’m a runner. And, fast or slow, runners run.- Jennifer Hudak

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