Sunday, November 13, 2011

the view from back here

yesterday, i ran a race. it was my fifth race of 2011!! i have even registered for one more this year, which will make a total of 24 miles raced this year. now, i realize that some of you run all 24+ of your miles in one race. however, i find that if you spread those miles out over several races, you don't have to spend as much time in the ice bath afterwards. and? you end up with more race tee shirts!!

i took on a 10K trail run. now, i've run a 5K trail race and i've run a 10K road race, but i'd never combined the two before. it was definitely a challenge, given that this trail had a decent elevation, and eleventy billion roots and vines to avoid. i trained for it as best i could, averaging about 16 miles per week and setting my sights on a conservative, yet still challenging, pace.

now this would be a good time to remind you that i am not a fast runner. i really am okay with this - i recognize that my body is built for endurance and stamina, not speed. my running goals have never been to win the race. my running goals have always been to run each race just a little bit faster than the one before. the only other competitor in that particular race is me. and truly, i believe that no matter where you are in the standings, NOTHING beats the feeling of just crossing the finish line.

i'm always at the back of the pack, and that's really okay with me. but yesterday i got to experience something new. yesterday? i finished dead last.

last place!! the very last person to finish the race!!

can you imagine?

i knew from the start that i would probably finish in the back. this was a small race, and as i glanced around the other runners assembling at the start, it became pretty obvious that this pack was made up of Serious Runners. i'll admit, there was a moment when i considered just getting in my car and taking off. heck, i'd already picked up my tee shirt from the registration area. who would be the wiser?

but i really wanted to run this race. it didn't take too much of a self pep talk to get myself to the starting line. when you're not worried about "winning," it's a lot easier to just run. and so, i did.

and i finished dead last. but? i finished!! and i ran that race at the exact pace i wanted to run. and i felt strong and athletic. and i learned a few things along the way:

1) when you are in last place, you don't have to worry about running through any spider webs, because every other runner has already done that for you.

2) when you are in last place, you don't have to worry that your running attire isn't as fashionable and trendy as the other runners, because after you leave the starting corral, you will never see them again.

3) when you are in last place, you don't have to worry about someone saying "passing on the left" from behind you on the narrow trail.

4) when you are in last place, and you hear something crashing through the woods behind you, you don't have to question whether it's another runner or the Blair Witch. (obviously it's the Blair Witch, since all of the other runner's are already ahead of you!)

5) when you are in last place, you can really enjoy the scenery.

6) when you are in last place, the race volunteers really REALLY cheer you on!!

7) when you are in last place, everyone will know who you are!

i finished the race thirteen minutes behind the person who finished in front of me. by the time i reached the water and orange slices at the finish, most of the 5K runners had gone home. the other 10K runners were entertained with a raffle, but i'm sure many of them were ready for me to finish so the official results would be posted.

while they were handing out awards, i stretched and hydrated and gave myself a little pat on the back for finishing strong. so, imagine my surprise when i heard my name called across the PA system.

turns out, i won first place in my age group!! now, i was the ONLY person in my age group. but you know what, it still felt REALLY great!!

dead last. you should try it some time!!


MoonGoddess said...

Loving that you got the prize after all.

& like you said, you finished.

Remember how far ahead you are of so many like me, who never get past the thoughts or training TO the race.


michelle said...

This is awesome, Lelly! I LOVE the list of things you learned by being last.

And like your other commenter said, you are so very very far ahead of those of us who aren't even running at all!

I really don't know what it feels like to be athletic, but I imagine it feels damn good.

Anne said...

Congrats on your last/first place finish!

Holly said...

Woo to the hoo Lelly! Way to go on accomplishing two things at once--that is hard to do. Seriously though, your perspective rocks.

The first shall be last and the last shall be first...

I've never done a trail run--you get extra kudos for the challenge of rougher terrain, tree limbs and such.

Anonymous said...

Love love love this! I really do hope I get to run with your someday :)

SisterX_83 said...

You always inspire me with your tales of running. Way to go!

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Oh Lelly. This is a great post. A really, really great post on so many levels.

I'm proud of you.

Crystal said...

I love you! I've been the person in dead last. It was in YOUR race...and the BSL cop was inches from my rear. HA! I considered asking to hitch a ride.

I felt the same though. I RAN IT! I decided to not sleep in. I decided to run. I decided to not be lazy, but to be athletic. And that's a winning attitude.

Alisha said...

What a great post, Lelly! Congrats on your race.

I LOVED your surprise, ending, too. As my mom would say, that's the stuff that Christmas letters are made of. Yours can go like this:

Lelly competed in an intense 10K Trail Run, and she finished first in her age category! She's now the proud owner of a shiny new first place medal.

(See, in Christmas letters you can slyly omit the other details, right? No need to admit that you were the only one in your age category, and actually came in dead last, right? That's what makes Christmas letters just so over-the-top-ish-ly-glowing.)

Truly--your post and your race are both so cool! Dead last, who cares, you did it. Apparently there aren't any other of us old folks who can even get our hineys out there.

John said...

I love the cheering done for the last person to finish . . . but, you didn't finish "last." You won (even if you didn't "win by default"), because you finished.

You know, damn well, that most people wouldn't even try that run . . . so you're a winner.

Anonymous said...

Saw your post on the Wilmington Road Runners facebook page. I started running (my neighborhood only) in the spring, and have my first race tomorrow. Like you, my goal is to complete not compete. You are inspiring!

Cristin said...

Way to go Lelly!

Natasha said...

I love this post!

Thanks for the Christmas card.