Coming in last

Blessed are those who come in last.

Thoughts inspired by watching a middle school cross-country running meet.

The gun goes off, the crowd of stationary runners becomes molten, they disappear into the woods. After endless minutes, one lead runner emerges from the trees to begin the final lap to the finish line. Then a second, a third, then clumps of runners.

Well after the lead runners have cooled down and are, perhaps, already thinking of next week’s race, the stragglers emerge from the woods. Not lithe, often walking, they are encouraged by parents and team mates to run the remaining distance. Exhausted, nonetheless they muster the will to pick up the pace. Many minutes after the race started, as most runners and their parents have dissipated, as the race organizers prepare for the next age group, they cross the finish line.

Blessed are those who come in last.

They surely are not motivated by winning. Whatever it is — bettering themselves, perseverance, internal resolve, courage in the face of negative feedback — is inspirational. May they carry that with them throughout their lives. And may the rest of us, who carefully judge our odds to avoid “losing,” reconsider. Character is not borne just from being first.

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  • Sharanya,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m delighted that my reflections were helpful and wish you fulfillment with your running.

    Peace — Gary

  • Thank you, Gary. This really lifted my spirit. I am training for long-distance races, and I have come in last for many of my training workouts. It feels lousy at times. But you’re right, there’s more to running a race than the motivation of winning. Thank you for giving me this perspective.