This past weekend I did my first 6K (3.7 miles) race ever! It was the Blood, Sweat and Beers 6K, with lots of cold beer afterwards and a really fun medal & shirt. Plus it was local, about 15 minutes from my home, and the race start was 10 am, which meant no early morning wake-up call on a Saturday! And did I mention the beer?
Anyway, it was a super fun race and there was the added bonus of getting to run part of it with a Run Your Best Life community member! It’s not often I get to run side by side with clients, so this made me really happy.
There were about 350 people registered, a really small event, and as usual I started in the back. When the gun went off, I put my headphones in and got right into my intervals.
Dead F-ing Last
Within 10 minutes I was absolutely dead last. All alone, with just a glimpse of the person ahead of me.
I’ve never been last in a race before, aside from my first triathlon—and in that case, although I crossed the finish line last (side by side with a friend who was also doing the race), I wasn’t actually the last place finisher because I’d started about 20 minutes after her.
Being last is an experience I’ve wanted to have for a long time, because I want the opportunity to observe my thinking about it and see exactly where my brain goes.
My initial reaction to being last
Here’s what happened in my mind when I realized I was last:
What the hell just happened?
*turns around to see if there’s someone behind me*
Oh good—there’s still someone back there.
*that person passes me like a gazelle*
I can’t believe I’m last. I’m so embarrassed. I should be faster than this. I’m a running coach, for fuck’s sake. What will people think?
*hot shame rolls through my entire body*
OK, Jill, let’s think this through. You’re last. What’s the worst that could happen?
I could lose sight of the person ahead of me and if the course isn’t well marked, I’ll have no idea where I’m going. I could get lost and end up either cutting the course OR doing extra mileage. It could be HOURS before I get back.
Andy will be embarrassed because his friends are here and they’ll know I came in last. He’ll break up with me and I’ll die alone in a van by the river.
My client that’s running this race will think less of me and won’t want to work with me anymore. Everyone will get wind of this and I’ll be the laughingstock of the running community.
What. The. Fuck.
Calm down, Whinona. (That’s my inner mean girl.)
You have a phone with GPS. If you get lost, you’ll find yourself on a map and figure it out. Or you’ll call an Uber. You’re not in the Sahara, you’re in New Jersey. Also, the course is marked, there are policemen and signs at every turn, and you can still see the person ahead of you.
This is a 6K, not a marathon. You’ll be on the course for maybe an hour. Stop catastrophizing, woman!
Andy won’t be embarrassed. He loves you! He knows how fast you run, and so do his friends. Some of them even listen to your podcast. It’s no secret you’re fat and slow. Stop worrying about what other people think of you—it’s none of your business.
And, finally, my clients don’t work with me because I’m fast. They work with me because I can help them get stronger, go farther, and feel more confident—and get their own inner mean girl under control. What better way to help them than to do my own mindset work and finish this race in last place like a boss?!
Owning last place
With that last thought, I started to get excited about finishing last. Like, REALLY excited.
Planning out exactly what I was going to do as I crossed that finish line. Listing out all the reasons it was awesome that I would be the final finisher. Allowing myself to really OWN it.
At around the 1 mile mark, the course looped back past the finish line and headed in the other direction—and shortly after that I saw the first place finisher heading towards me. I yelled, “you’re doing great!” and he swerved towards me and high-fived me as he barrelled towards the finish. I’ve never had the chance to high-five first place while I was on the course. That felt great!
I got into my zone and was really enjoying the run when I realized I was catching up to two people who were walking together.
Shit. Last place finish out the window, just when I got excited about it.
I caught up to them and nodded as I passed, and continued on. After a half mile or so, they started running and passed me again. We played tag for a bit and then I noticed I was catching up to someone else.
Sigh. I made peace with it. Today was not my day to finish last, but at least I got to watch my brain go to some places it hasn’t been in a while, and do the work to bring myself back around.
At around 2.5 miles, I noticed someone running back to me—it was Amy, from the Run Your Best Life community! She’d been running about a quarter mile or so ahead of me, by herself, and decided that she wanted to run with me so we could hang out. Yay!
We stayed together for the rest of the race, and at one point we were back in last place with a police car following us. That made me REALLY happy because I’ve never had a police escort before! We took a selfie, obviously.
The rest of the race passed without incident, we chatted amongst a few other women running near us, and as we approached the finish line we sprinted and I told Amy she had to finish before me so I could be as close to last as possible.
Andy was waiting at the end to take pictures of me crossing. He handed me a bottle of water and hugged me. My time was 1:01:58 with a pace of 16:37. Not my fastest, not my slowest. I finished with three people behind me.
That’s the story of my almost DFL. I’m glad I got the chance to experience the thoughts and feelings that came up for me, because I’m pretty sure everyone who’s in that position has had the same ones.
The lesson here is that being last is the circumstance, and you can make it mean anything you want. Humans tend to be assholes to themselves and so my first response was to make it mean that I suck.
But we are also blessed with a prefrontal cortex with which we can choose our thoughts ON PURPOSE. So after the inner mean girl tantrum is over, you can get busy deciding how you want to think and feel about the circumstance of being last, and change your entire experience.
First place and last place run the same distance. Everything that happens in your mind between point A and point B is up to you.
If you’ve ever had a last-place experience that sucked, I challenge you to question your thinking about it. The circumstance of being in last place is neutral. Your thoughts about what you make it mean create your emotions, and that drives how you show up for yourself for the rest of the race as well as afterwards.
I’ll definitely be bringing these lessons to Run Your Best Life and creating some coaching tools around it—hope to see you there!