Finishing last better than never starting

Updated Jun 27, 2014

I ’ve always heard that nice guys finish last, so when it came to my first 5K race, I must have been batting .1000 in the nice category.

I signed up for the 5K in early February, knowing there was no way I would be able to run the whole 3.2 miles because I’m just not in good enough shape. But the entry fee went to raise money for a worthy cause, and a friend of mine was one of the event organizers.

I was awake bright and early on race day, and bundled up in sweat pants and fleece. I lined up with all the other participants at the starting line, slightly intimidated by them — the muscles, the fit physiques, the talk of finishing in 20 minutes. And all the spandex.

The first few hundred feet of the race were downhill, and I found myself thinking it wouldn’t be so bad. Then we got to level ground, and my need for air forced me to slow my pace. A man pushing a baby carriage passed me. I was more than a little insulted.

I quickly realized that everyone had passed me except for one other woman, who seemed to be in similar physical condition to me, and a man who appeared to be in his 70s, who would eventually pass me while encouraging me that my stride looked nice. My one goal for the race was to not finish last, and it looked like even that measly accomplishment would not be realized. I turned to the other woman, who was about 50 feet behind me, and asked if she wanted to be race buddies.

“I don’t want to finish last,” I told her. “And I figure you don’t either. If we cross the finish line together, then we can say neither of us finished last.”

Her name was Beth, and she agreed that the miles would go more quickly with someone to chat with along the way. We did our best, mostly walking and jogging some. We hit the halfway point to the cheers of the race volunteers and some refreshing water. We finished the race in about 49 minutes, several minutes behind the next closest runners.

But we finished.

It wasn’t easy to get out and complete a 5K. It was early. I knew I could be embarrassed because I wasn’t in great shape. When everyone passed me, it was tempting to just turn around, get back in the car and head to breakfast with my husband. But now I can say I’ve completed a 5K. I didn’t finish last, and thanks to me, Beth didn’t have to finish last, either.

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Now I’m actually looking forward to my next 5K, which will be near the end of this month. Hopefully, my conditioning will be a little better this time, and I now have a goal in addition to not finishing last: I want to finish in less time than the first 5K took.

All this to say, if I can get out there and do it, so can you. Don’t let embarrassment or laziness keep you from doing something that is good for yourself, whether that’s participating in a 5k or walking laps around the truckstop parking lot. And you won’t just be doing it for you. You’ll be helping your family members by increasing your own health, and you may even help inspire fellow drivers who want better health.

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