If You Come In Last or Don’t Finish A Race

triathlon swimming in open water

If you come in last or don’t finish a race, so what?

This past season, I have seen or heard of friends and teammates not being able to finish or coming in last and I find myself reflecting inward.  What happens if that’s me? How would I feel? Would that sway me from racing again?

I remember my first half marathon was with the New York Road Runner organization. It was the NYC Half Marathon and there was a time limit.  I knew I wasn’t a fast runner and became totally stressed about being pulled from the course. I wasn’t. I made it in the time limit. But the next year, a friend was pulled from the course. He was insistent on finishing and tried to stay on the sidewalk but eventually, he caved in. I don’t know if he ever ran again.

Then I look at someone like Gordon Ramsey, who completed Kona in 2013. Last year, he pulled himself out of the race and DNS (did not start) because of an Achilles injury. This year he wasn’t able to finish the bike because of poor nutrition and hydration. Are these just excuses? I also wonder if someone like that with such a big ego can pull himself off the course, then is it really bad to DNF?

Does a race really define who you are?

Triathlons are so similar to life. Things will happen. There are always fast balls thrown at you and you just have to either dodge them or get hit.  You go into a race not feeling 100% and there’s no guarantee that you will get through the race. You can also go into a race feeling fantastic and then you have a dropped chain or the bike has a flat and it’s pouring rain. Then what?

An old coach of mine told me that there’s no such thing as a perfect race and looking back on this past season, I realize he’s right. Something always happens – you get kicked too hard in the water; you can’t get up to speed when climbing on those hills; or you just don’t have the strength to run after doing a long bike ride. Stuff happens!

Now as for coming in last, well, that’s actually not so bad. Think about it, the person went out there and tried to do the best he/she could. Could you really ask for more? Shouldn’t we be proud of those who are out there trying to challenge themselves?

I saw this and thought it summed it all up. It appeared in Athlinks Blog:

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to cross that finish line. Those of you who take 5+ hours to run a marathon or 14+ hours to complete an Ironman, you train like the rest of us train. You have doubts if you’ll finish, just like the rest of us. You are not sure if you can handle this enormous challenge you’ve placed before yourself, just like the rest of us. But on top of all this, you know that there will be no fanfare for you. There will be no write-up in the local paper about your courage. There will be no top-3 age-group finish, most likely. You are on your feet and the roads for more hours than the rest of us and yet you still want to continue. You know you’ll be towards the end of the pack, and yet you wish to go on. You are, my endurance brothers and sisters, no less of an athlete than the 2:07 marathoner or the 8:10 Ironman finisher. You are inspiring. You are the spark that let’s others know, that it can be done if you believe in yourself and have the will to pursue your dreams and goal. I thank you for this. You are all truly my endurance heroes.

So what if you DNF or finish last?  Who really cares and if they do, too bad! You went out there with good intentions. You trained for months. You tried your hardest and you did what you set out to do. So if that happens to me, which it definitely could happen, I’m going to try to take it in stride and just feel proud of my accomplishments to even make it to the day!