“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
– Robert Green Ingersoll
So, I wrote a blog last week. It was about a race I ran. But it wasn’t just any ole race, mind you. It was a race in which I finished…DEAD LAST.
Now, I struggled with whether I should hit the little “publish” button when I was finished, but in the end decided to go ahead and bite the bullet. I blog plenty about the great moments in my life, so I figured it was time to blog about one of the not-so-great. Time for a little honesty, ya know? A little humility. How would it be received? I didn’t know. But I did know that I was putting myself out there for public embarrassment. And yet, somehow, I didn’t seem to care. I felt like I had something to say, and so I said it.
So, what happened? How was it received?
I was blown away (to put it mildly) by the response. It has been viewed almost 8,000 times now and shared and posted over 1,000 times. A women’s running site featured it. Many running groups on Facebook shared it and a few even contacted me requesting me to join. I was contacted by runners all over the world who thanked me for being the voice of so many “back-of-the-packers.” I was even contacted by one person who ran the actual race I was blogging about. He was one of the first finishers and admitted that, even up there in the front of the pack, he felt so many of the things that I felt too.
Wow. I’m in awe. All this time, I’ve been trying to do awesome things so I could blog about them – and it turns out that blogging about a “failure” is what ended up resonating the loudest. Who knew!? I guess suffering through misery and embarrassment and then rising back up to tell about it maybe isn’t quite what you’d call “failure” after all. (I think a lot of us need that reminder every now and then in our lives – we don’t give ourselves enough credit for all the times that tends to be the case.)
So I decided it was time for a little epilogue. What happened to that runner who finished last in that race? Did she ever run again?
Yep. She sure did.
In fact – only 6 short days after that race, I ran a race called the MOJE. This is a 6.6 mile race, in which 3.3 of those miles are straight up a mountain. (The other 3.3 are back down – but I probably didn’t have to clarify that.) MOJE is short for Mount Jefferson – which is a 1,342-foot climb. (Add 100 more feet to that for the training I did because I thought the course went even further – leave it to me to make a hard thing even harder!)
Now, I’m not going to lie. That MOJE race was front and center on my mind as I finished last in the race less than a week prior. I remember thinking there was no way I was actually going to do that race. I was going to show up, get my shirt, and leave. Now, I’ve never actually done that before, but this time was going to be an exception. No mountain climbing for a last place race finisher, sheesh. What was I thinking? I couldn’t hang with the big dogs. Was I insane?
But, like it always does, time healed the sting of that last-place finish and by the time the MOJE rolled around, I knew I could do it. I trained. I trained hard. And now, I had learned what it felt like to be last. I already knew that being last was not the most horrible thing in the world that could happen. I survived – big deal. And I would survive this one.
I wasn’t last in the MOJE, but I was close. And you know what, who cares? As the faster runners were making their way down the mountain while I was still hoofing it up, I got more “good job”s and high fives than I could count from them as they passed by. This was the friendliest race I’ve ever been a part of. And I finally…FINALLY…earned one of the coveted MOJE race t-shirts. (And we all know I only do races for the t-shirts. I’ll pretty much do anything for a t-shirt, but that’s a blog for another day…)
You know, I ran my first full marathon back in November and I can honestly tell you that I was just as proud (if not prouder) of myself after I finished this mountain race as I was of that one. Not only because it was tough (and that’s an understatement!) but because it followed a time in my life when I could have easily given up, yet chose to keep going instead. Like my shirt says in my race finish photo, I made the choice to keep moving.
And I’m so glad I did.
And that, my dear friends, is what it’s all about. Truly.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald