A recent 5k with my daughter, where I wasn’t last (Picture text)
The summer of 2006, I ran my first triathlon. Instead of training for it, I spent my time getting divorced. I stood at the starting line with the simple goal of finishing the race. Struggling through the swim, I reached the shore in 37 minutes, amongst the final three to leave the water. The other two chose not to continue. Heading for my bike, I began the 15 mile ride, finishing 30 minutes behind the last competitor. Starting the run, my legs ached and my body was exhausted. I wanted to walk part of the way, but had decided somewhere during the race that I was going to run the entire 3 miles. I set mini goals, choosing a landmark a short distance ahead of me to keep myself motivated. Volunteers followed closely behind me, picking up the cones and signs as I passed each check point. It was very discouraging. For the last half mile, my friends came out to meet me. They ran with me the last leg of the run, providing much needed support. As I came in sight of the finish line, total strangers offered me cheers of encouragement and I sprinted the final 50 yards, 45 minutes after the last person had crossed it.
It was both humiliating and inspiring to be fully and completely last. After spending 4 months dealing with the fallout of my broken relationship, the triathlon had become a symbol to me. A symbol that I could start a new life. That I was strong enough to make it through, even when I didn’t feel prepared. I learned that I will do what it takes to reach my goals, even if I am last. And that I have people in my life who will meet me when I have nothing left to keep me going at the end of the race. Physically it was failure, emotionally and mentally it was unqualified success. Trying to navigate the world of intersections, where we say “yes” to our whole selves, can feel like this sometimes. At least for me, it can. In those moments, I recall my only (so far) triathlon experience and remember that finishing is sometimes more than enough.