“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
– Michael Jordan
I want to show you a picture I took just before I started a 10-mile race this morning. I want you to pay particular attention to one part of the picture, okay? Here, let me point it out for you….
Did you catch that? The smile…see it? Well, let me tell you my dears, that was the last time that bad boy was on my face until much later in the day. Why’s that, you ask?
I’ve been running for three and a half years now and today – “it” happened for the first time.
I, Melissa Edmondson, finished dead last in a race.
That’s right. LAST.
So…as is the usual custom for me, I’ve decided to write about it. You know – take an embarrassing situation and make it public. Because that seems to help.
I’m going to take you on a little trip. You ready? Now, you may want to sit back and prepare yourself – seatbelts and whatnot – because you, my friends, are about to take a little journey through my brain. Gentlemen, start your engines….
One heaping helping of humility coming right up!
Thoughts That Run Through a Last-Place Finisher’s Brain:
1. Man, that first mile was FAST! Get it, girl. Should we slow down? Nahhhh…we’ll need that time we just saved. You’re killing it!
2. Second mile? Fast again! Dang, girl. Now, you know you have 8 more of these to do, right? And it’s going to start going uphill. Think we should slow down a bit? Heck no, this is a race! Rev it, baby!
3. Oh, here comes the finish line for the 5K runners. If I only did the 5K, I’d be finished now. But no way – not me! I’m a distance runner! A big, bad distance runner! Good-bye, 5Kers, I’m moving on. Woohoo!
4. Hmmm. Is it just me, or is it really quiet now that the 5K people are gone? Where’s everyone at?
5. *Cricket. Cricket. Cricket.*
6. I’m just going to take a quick peek behind me and see what’s back there. This is a long straight-stretch so I should be able to get a good feel for who is behind me.
7. WTF?! Where are the other racers? No, seriously. Where are they?
8. Oh God, here come the hills. You can do this, you can do this. You’re a distance runner. You’re a distance runner.
9. It’s frickin hot out here.
10. Okay, mile 5. That wasn’t too bad. Half-way through. You can do this, you can do this.
11. *Another peek back.*
12. I’m seriously the last person.
13. Okay, here comes mile 7. Yay, a water stop! An excuse to walk! At least I don’t know anyone out here…I’m just a stranger finishing last, no biggie.
14. Oh crap. Is that my friend running the water station? WHAT!? Yep, that’s her. Oh no. And look at the sweet little girl handing out water. Act happy. Act happy.
15. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile.
16. I think my friend may have just taken a picture. I hope I smiled. And I hope the cops weren’t behind me in the picture since I’m last. Oh, did I mention I’m in last place?
17. I bet I didn’t smile. *Turning to look behind me.* And yep, there’s the po-po. Great.
18. Mile 8. You’re not dead. Keep going. You can do this. You can do this.
19. You can’t do this. You suck. Just quit now.
20. Good God are these hills ever going to stop!? Who runs a race in the mountains? And where are all the other people in this thing? Seriously!? What are they, aliens? Who runs this fast in the heat and hills? I hate them. I hate me. I hate everyone and everything.
21. I’m totally going to blog about this.
22. I’m totally not going to blog about this. This is embarrassing.
23. I need Coke. (The liquid kind.)
23. Mile 9. My phone is dying. OMG – seriously? All this work and my phone is dying? Now, how am I going to post on Facebook about how miserable I am?
24. Oh, good – another aid station! I hope there’s Coke.
25. No Coke. Jerks.
26. I’m kidding, they’re not jerks. These volunteers are so dang nice. I wish I wasn’t almost dead so I could actually tell them how much I appreciate them.
27. Phone just died. My life is over.
28. For the love of God, here comes another hill. Screw it. I’m walking.
29. You’re going to walk in the last mile? Hell, yeah I am.
30. You shouldn’t walk in the last mile. You’re almost there.
31. SHUT UP!
32. I know these volunteers want to go home, and I’m the sole reason they’re still out here. I suck.
33. I KNOW that has been more than a mile. Am I being punked?
34. Oh good, a cop escort. Wave at him. Wave at him. Smile. Be nice. It’s not his fault you’re last – he’s just doing his job.
35. THANK GOD! I see the finish line! I hope the cop doesn’t turn his siren on. I’ve seen them do that at the end of a race. How embarrassing that would be. Please, please, please, let me just slip across the finish line quietly with no fanfare.
37. I hate my life.
And there you have it, folks. A dead last race finish.
I was fully prepared to head home and throw my running shoes in the trash. Okay, maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic, but I had seriously decided that distance running was no longer in the cards for me. I just didn’t have what it took and that was all there was to it.
But then…the next few hours passed. And in those few hours, a few things happened.
First, I had this conversation by text with my teenage daughter:
*sniff* What an awesome kid.
Then, I texted a friend who completely understood me and let me vent. That was nice. Yes, I finished. No, I didn’t quit. But sometimes we need those friends in our lives who “get it.” You know? The ones who just let you rant and swear you’ll never run again, but who know you’ll come crawling back like you always do.
Then, I got a message from the friend who was handing out water. (The po-po picture-taker.) This is what it said:
I am not as elegant with words as you but I will try to express my feelings. I was honored to cheer you on this morning and offer water to those who passed by. The race is only possible because of runners like you. Thank you. Running is not a gift of mine, and I would stand out there for 6 hours if it meant serving someone who is serving others. Grateful to call you friend.
Here come the sniffles again….
I’m not even going to pretend that I am happy with my performance in this race. That would be a lie. But geez, it’s not the end of the world. I was alive to run. And in this race, in particular, I should especially remember that. This race was done in honor of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It started three years ago as a small honorary race for a fallen police officer, and has now grown into a wonderful thing that lets so many family members of other lost heroes know that the community cares for their loss and appreciates their sacrifice.
Sure, I was last. But I am alive. I was running. I was moving. I could come home and whine and complain and then wake up tomorrow morning and start all over. Some people don’t have that luxury.
I will live to run again. It was just a bad race, that’s all. It happens. I just need to take a breath, relax my aching muscles, and get up and try again.
I suppose that’s what life is all about, right?
“I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”