Last

I’ve been thinking of being last. Not planning on it, just ending up in that position. There’s a trail run coming up in Whistler and I had considered entering until I really thought about the speedy, tough field of runners who would likely enter. I told my friends that  I was not ready to come in last again. I’ve reconsidered. A few musings have influenced my decision.

 

I recently watched a Jane Fonda clip where she talks about aging and mentions revisiting the person you were in your youth and developing those sides of you that may have been left behind as you got older.

As the youngest child, I came in last most of the time and hated it. If there was a race to the barn, I usually ate dust. I never clued in that the times I won were the times when the winner was the first to do the chores. In high school, I joined the track team with my girlfriends and my coach wisely put me in the longer distances where stamina might serve me well. Still, I recall watching the other four runners in the four hundred pull ahead of me on that hot dusty track up in Ashcroft. It took all my sternest self talk to actually finish that race without quitting and afterwards I could only manage to say I finished fifth. Last was shameful to me.

Fast forward forty years or so to the opening of the Sea to Sky Gondola and a 21 km run called Skyline Ridge Run that some friends were also entering. I remember looking around at the crowd and thinking that I might be the oldest person there but it didn’t occur to me that I might finish with only the sweep loping in behind me. I’d had many years of running experience to get comfortable with generally being a middle of the pack runner.

There were several times that I walked during the run but lots of people walk in trail runs   – just not so many in that particular race. With about ten minutes to go till the end a runner scrambled up behind me and passed me. I recognized her from the turn around point and realized that the other few who had been behind on the way out had already scampered onwards. No way, I thought, I’m not going to be last – and I surged – well, stumbled – ahead. Then she burst forward and I countered till I couldn’t. That left me with about five minutes for it to sink in that I would cross the finish line in rearmost position.

My thoughts went something like this: Someone has to be last. Hey-that’s me-I’m that person and it’s okay. I can finish as strongly as I’m able and I don’t feel like quitting; I do feel like crying though. Believe those people who are cheering you in with their great job/good run/ way to be congratulations. Cry if you have to, then smile and use the rush of endorphins to cross the line with good grace.  Meet your friends and be happy you had a chance to explore the new terrain in such great company.

I’d forgotten those insights when I contemplated the trail run; instead I was only recalling the momentary blow to my pride. I’ve been last before and will be again. Here too, there are lessons to learn. And since I have no photo to illustrate these precise feelings, here’s a cosmos that languished till the end of August before it flowered. It looks pretty content just to have had the chance to bloom.

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