Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's wrong with last, so long as you finish?

Jason and I were driving back to Raleigh from my hometown on Sunday afternoon.  We always stop at Neuse Sport Shop in Kinston on the way to/from the beach - it is a good halfway point and has super-clean restrooms. 

On Sunday, I saw a shirt on a gentleman that bothered me just a little.  Let me set up the situation though - 35-40 year old man, tall (probably 6'3" or a little taller), slim, athletic looking.  He had numbers on the back of his calves, etc.  My assumption is that he did a triathlon over the weekend and was heading back to his home. 

Anyway, the back of his shirt said "Don't be last."  For some reason, reading this on his shirt bothered me.  I guess part of it was because I had just finished a race the day before and finished last.  I worked hard to train for the Beaufort Road Race and completed the 10K, but still came in last.  It took me a little time, but I had to remember that I did the race and that was way more than I could do a year ago. 

So, here's my thinking... Even the best runner/athlete can be last.  If you take 4 elite runners and put them together to run a mile/5K/etc., one of them will come in first and one of them will come in last.  It's just how it has to be...  Despite the fact that we are all winners because we did the race, someone has to be the last to finish.

So, why such a stigma on being last?  I am not trying to be all "puppies and rainbows" about running, but why not some encouraging messages on the backs of shirts?  This could be motivation to the person wearing it, but also to the people that are behind them on the greenway, race course, etc.  It isn't about the time, it is about finishing.

Maybe some of the running companies can use messages like the messages below.  These are all courtesy of my awesome running buddy, Sarah.  She is one of the most encouraging, enthusiastic people I have ever met!
  • You are full of AWESOME!!
  • Most people can't do what you are doing! 
  • While everyone else is asleep in bed, you are running!
  • You're kicking ass and takin' names...
  • What would your shirt say??


  1. I've actually seen lots of running t-shirts that are supportive and encouraging. And although this is a broad generalization, in my experience most people in the running community are themselves supportive and encouraging. I've seen examples of this time and time again, since I was a kid watching my Dad run marathons to running races myself. It's one of the things I like best about this sport.

    For example, during my first half marathon I got passed by the top marathon finishers. They had already run almost double of what I had run! As the lead female runner passed me going up a hill she took a second to say "great job, keep it up!" to me.
    Or, back in the day my Dad met Bill Rogers. And my Dad (who was a serious marathon runner at the time), said to him "I just can't comprehend what it must feel like to run a marathon as fast as you do." And Bill Rogers, one of the greatest runners said to him, "Well, I can't comprehend what it must feel like to run for a longer period of time than I do!" I like to think about that sometimes...it may take me 5 hours to run a marathon, but could the runners who finished in 3 hours run for 5?
    Or, in my second marathon I was near the back of the pack. And I felt like I had been running forever with no end in site. I wasn't familiar with the course and didn't know how much farther I had. But the first place male finisher actually finished the race, and started walking the course backwards encouraging people as he went. He told me, "you are so close, it's just around the corner, push as hard as you can." And it was enough to get me going for that last bit.

    Sorry for all the examples...I just love talking about the running community and all of the wonderful experiences I have had. ;) And it is stories like these that keep my perspective positive even after a bad run or a bad race or when I feel down about myself.

    So I wouldn't let one t-shirt or one guy bother you. There is that kind of attitude out there, but luckily it's usually in other sports. (Maybe it's a triathlon thing more than a running thing). :)

    PS One of my favorite running related sayings that I used to tell my Girls On the Run girls I coached is "If you're moving, you're improving."

  2. I'm so glad I came across this post of yours. I think it's so important to surround yourself with positive motivation. I think having the pressure of 'Don't Finish Last' could make somebody anxious - it would definitely make me anxious! As you said, it's about finishing, not the speed.
    Love the inspiration messages by Sarah as well as what Jazzy's written in her comments.
    I don't have many people around me that provide such motivation so I look for it wherever I can get it -- the blogging world has been great for that!