#7 Coming in first or last doesn’t matter… Finishing well does.

Lesson #7 Coming in first or last doesn’t matter… Finishing well does.

In a Marathon, unless you are an elite runner (probably from Kenya), it matters little whether you come in first or last.  What matters most is first, that you even dared to run, and then second, the manner in which you run and finish. In short, success or failure in a Marathon is not measured by the time on the clock or by the number of people who cross the line in front of or behind you.  (Between you and me, I will admit to you that I do privately use my finishing position – in my age bracket, and overall – as a benchmark for my own personal feeling of accomplishment and – if noteworthy enough – bragging rights). Rather, it is measured by miles you have placed behind you, the wear on your shoes, the sweat on your face, and ultimately, having crossed the finish line – whatever your time is – that you are spent, and that you can look back on the race as having put all your energy into the effort.

That is not to say that you have to feel as though you are going to puke when you cross the finish line, or that you have to collapse in a heap. But it does mean that you can take pride in knowing that you pushed yourself to a level of achievement only a small percentage of the world can claim as their own – That you ran 26.2 miles.

Few (make that very few) people finish a race looking the way they did when they started – fresh and perfectly coiffed. When I cross the finish line, there is little doubt that I have been running for a very long time. Mostly because I am old, but also because if I have anything left in the last mile or so, I slowly begin to pick up my pace until the last several hundred yards when I break into what I would – but perhaps no one else would – call a full sprint.  OK, others would call it “the old guy sprint”.   “The old guy sprint” has lots of movement, arms flailing, elbows spread wide (perhaps for balance), and a mad pumping (perhaps this is better referred to as a shuffling) of bony legs, and loud gasping noises, with face red, veins popping, and sweat falling like rain, maybe even some drool on the chin … but sadly, not a lot of speedy forward motion.

That is kind of what I must have looked like at the finish of the Las Vegas half Marathon.

Vegas Marathon

Vegas Marathon

In retrospect, I feel I had way too much left at the end of the race, although I came in with what to me was a GREAT finishing time. I had plenty of kick left for the big finish with the crowd cheering and cameras shooting and loud speaker blaring. I crossed the line flying (Well, at least that is how I recreate it in my mind), hands high in the air.  You would have thought that I had just broke the tape and come in first, setting a new world record.  finish-lineThe truth is, the winner of the Full Marathon came in not too many minutes after I finished my Half.  OK, so no records set, and no win in my age bracket. But back to my point… I still had some kick left. Or at least that is how I remember it now, as I hobbled, knees knocking, and sweat drenched over  to the massage tent for the free massage. (Which proves just how far I will run for a free massage.)

So then, hours later (well, maybe it was days later) I kicked myself for not pushing harder. And isn’t that just the way we are? We achieve something great, but somehow that isn’t good enough, and then we criticize how we could have and should have done better, instead of relishing the moment, instead of looking back and realizing that we actually enjoyed (or could have more enjoyed) the journey. In the first part of the race, I was so into the experience of running down the strip and the fireworks that I missed the Blue Man group that was performing on the side walk in front of the Fashion Show Mall. They were a rose along the side of the road, but I was too much somewhere else to even see and enjoy them. Upon further review of the race, I concluded that I was a bit too casual in the middle portion of the race. I stopped by the side of the road downtown to strip off my jogging pants at about mile 6. I ran to the beat of some hip-hop band playing for our enjoyment around mile 8. I stopped and stretched my calf muscles somewhere around mile 10. In short, I enjoyed the run, just for the pure enjoyment of the experience.

So maybe I should amend my thoughts to be, “Coming in first or last doesn’t matter… running and finishing well does; and being able to look back on the race without regret, but quite to the contrary, and with joy in your heart for having made the journey; that is what matters.”

So, the lesson for life is this: It matters less the positions we hold, the money we make, the toys we accumulate, and the treasures we lay in store for ourselves than  how we run our race or races of life.  And finally at the end of our long run, what ever the length, that we are spent, nothing left.  That we run well, no regrets, and nothing but joy in our hearts for the journey we’ve made, and the people we made it with.

I look forward to the races in front of me (both in running and in life) with great anticipation, and the opportunity to look back and reflect… hopefully with joy, and then… maybe do it all over again.

So, how are you running your race?  Thanks for reading.


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