Three years ago I experienced a defining moment that altered me in profound ways. That moment was when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. If there was ever someone least likely to accomplish this feat, it was me, and I crossed that finish line after most people had gone home and the race organizers were tearing down the scaffolding…dead last.
A lot of people would consider finishing dead last a shameful failure, and for a long time I was embarrassed to tell people what my finishing time was. That was until I read a blog post by another runner who had finished that same marathon. His blog recap of the race is pretty technical…describing his pace at each mile and his strategy for making his time goal. I found it interesting that as I read his account of his experience I was re-living mine. He crossed the finish line in about 3 hours 15 minutes. I did a quick math problem in my head to figure out how long afterward I crossed the line, and it was 4 hours later. My official finish time was 7 hours and 13 minutes. I wondered if he could have kept going at his pace for another 4 hours, and then it occurred to me that I accomplished something pretty special. I didn’t quit, and I received the exact same medal and finishers shirt as the person who “won” the race.
I use quotes around the word “won” for a purpose. Because even though I was the last person across the line that day, I have gained so much from that experience. There is a boldness and a confidence in me that was unleashed, and I no longer struggle with self-doubt and depression. I no longer shrink back from conflict. I can stand and face any challenge life throws at me. The most valuable lesson I learned is that in a marathon, as in life, there is no such thing as “last place.” There are only “final finishers.” And even though I was that final finisher I still accomplished something that very few ever do.
Back in October 2014 I received a phone call from the organizers of the Mankato Marathon. Each year they create video featuring 3 runners who they believe have an inspiring and bold story to tell. This year I was honored that they asked for my story to be included. The video just came out today. It’s about 6 minutes long.