It is known in the social circles I frequent that I am a runner, and if I find myself in a new circle, it doesn’t take long for that topic to surface. I love running and I love talking about running. This sometimes means that new runners or those who would like to begin running will discuss their experiences with me and sometimes ask for help. I love this. Running has been such a wonderful part of my life, and I am thrilled when someone expresses the desire to make it a part of theirs.
Twice I have been a coach for a program called No Boundaries. This program trains new runners to complete a 5k (3.1 miles). This program is wonderful for both myself as a coach and the new runners who participate. It is amazing to start this journey with someone and to finish with them, witnessing their excitement and the empowerment they feel upon crossing that finish line.
MOST of these new runners express one main fear during training. It isn’t that it will hurt. It isn’t that they won’t be able to finish. It isn’t that they will get an injury. The one main fear expressed by new runners is the fear of being last.
This usually makes me laugh. First of all, the universal rule of running is there will ALWAYS be someone faster and there will ALWAYS be someone slower. There may be a few exceptions, but for the average Joe or Jane, this is the case.
Also, in races from a 5k all the way up to a marathon, there are usually walkers. A runner can usually beat a walker (unless they are one of those speed walkers and that is a different ballgame altogether). Plus, there are usually people who haven’t trained a lick, but who want to participate in the event anyway. Especially fund raising events such as the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run, which is one of the No Boundaries goal events.
And finally, I HAVE been last and I survived. Here’s the story:
I was 16 years old and running my very first half-marathon in Panama City, FL. I may have been 15, but I’m not entirely sure. The most I had ever run was 10 miles (once), and I didn’t do that anywhere close to the half-marathon.
Because it was so long ago my memories of when things started to go wrong are blurry, but I do remember some feelings and thoughts along the way. First of all, I was hurting. Badly. A half-marathon is no distance to underestimate for a new runner, and I was definitely new to anything more than 6 miles. Second, I was so far behind the other runners that they closed down the water stops. So not only was I hurting, I was unbelievably thirsty. It became an all consuming desire for water that kept me moving at all. Third, not even the police car that follows the last runner stayed with me. I was actually glad, as he was getting on my nerves.
Finally, during this never-ending race, I saw my mom and her friend, Maggie, running toward me. I started to cry and all I could get out was, “I…am…so…thirsty.” I may have also said something like “this is awful,” but I don’t remember. Maggie had a water bottle in her hand and she went to some unknown source and filled it.
They ran with me the rest of the way and that helped. When I reached the finish line, everyone had already gone to the after party in a park nearby. All that was left of the finish line was the clock. A few students from my high school had stayed because they heard someone from Mosley was running the race, so I did get to run by the clock to the sound of a few enthusiastic (probably pitying) cheers.
I sat down on the sidewalk until my sister arrived to take me home. Mom and Maggie went to the after party, and I went home to soak in the tub. When Mom came home, she handed me a medal. I had won first place in my age group because I was the ONLY person, male or female, under the age of 20 to enter the race. We laughed. And I’m sure I said never again but…we know what has become of that.
To any new runners who may be reading, I would say what I always say, and that is you are not going to be last. And in the very small chance that you are, it is not so bad. It gives you something to laugh about later and a new goal for your next event. So keep running. Even if you are last.