So you nervously lined up at the start of a race this weekend eyeing up your competitors, checking to see if there is anyone of a similar build to you in what I like to call the Fat Runner Scan. You know for sure you won't win but for goodness sake don't let me come last you say to yourself, as you move towards the middle of the starting field in a final attempt to avoid the dreaded last place spot.
What do you mean you didn't even get to the starting line?
Come on, lets put those irrational "But what if I come last" fears to bed and look at 5 and half reasons why coming dead last in a race isn't that bad after all.
1. Someone has to come last and you are big enough to take it. Just starting running is brave enough when you are overweight or inactive so you sure as hell have the courage to take one for the team this time. You will be saving someone else the embarrassment perhaps someone who would be broken by the experience, besides just use it as a baseline...we all have to start somewhere right?
2. You are just getting your moneys worth. Who wants to spend £20 on less than 20 minutes worth of running? The longer you are out there the more value you are getting out of your race fee. Try working out your £ per minute of running a race, and even if the race is a freebie like parkrun is it really worth the half hour drive for a 15 minute run? Hmmmm??
3. Its not so crowded or competitive. The back end of a race is always the friendlier bit, no pushing or shoving, no jostling for position. No. At the back people smile at each other and check that you are ok and say "good job" and "keep going". You get to run your own race and take in the surroundings without any added pressure.
4. The crowds are really supportive. People clap and cheer politely when speedy runners whizz past, but when you are right at the back people REALLY cheer and give you heart felt words of encouragement because they can imagine just how hard it is for you because its pretty much how hard it would be for them too!
5. The finish line team make a real fuss of you. Mainly because they can all go home now, but also because they will have seen everyone else that has come through in various levels of exhaustion, pain or emotional state and they know that you have covered exactly the same distance and are just as incredibly as the very first person to cross the line.
and the half?
Well, take it from me coming last makes for a great story, my whole blog came about as a result of me coming dead last in a race and I often dine out on that story, revelling in every detail. In this specific race the rest of the field were so much faster than me that by the time I passed the finish line there was no finish line, it had been packed away along with the water station. Oh the shame!!
You can read the full post herehttp://toofattorun.co.uk/when-will-i-learn/
This catastrophe was in part because I chose an inappropriate local race that was held by a quite serious running club, I should have checked the times from last year to see it was completely out of my league...the ultra fit looking people at the start line warming up should have been a clue too!!
In all my years of running I have probably only come last 4 or 5 times and never at a big race, but it is still something that still crosses my mind at times. So if coming last is still a massive fear for you and is preventing you from signing up to a race these simple tips will hopefully limit the likelihood of it happening in the first place.
1. Check if there are any cut off times for the race. These are normally included in the information for races to allow for roads to reopen and to indicate how long it should take you to get round.
2. Check last years results to see the times of the last few runners, if they are not publicly available simply email the race organisers and ask
3. Look out for charity races which tend to attract a more diverse running crowd and more fun runners who are not interested in times
4. Run with a supportive partner who doesn't mind coming last, in the final stretch give it a sprint and take that 2nd from last spot instead
5. Train your backside off to improve your speed, by just a few seconds per mile and this can move you up the field significantly
Remember in every single race someone has to come last, do not for a minute underestimate how powerful the image of someone fighting to finish a race is. You may feel embarrassed or upset, or even that people might be laughing at you, they will not be.
Yes, the people who win races are held up there for us all to adore and aspire to, but it is the people who cross the line last that change the hearts and minds of the average person out there and those are the people that count.
Next time you finish last just think you may have just inspired someone just like you to don their trainers and go for their first run, and that is amazing right?