Last Place

I recently traveled to Utah with my kids to visit family and friends. We were there for two weeks, and yes, we flew.

Before you freak out about the idea of A) flying alone on a plane with four kids and B) Spending two weeks on “vacation” with four kids, on my own, bouncing from house to house trying not to wear out our welcome in any one town, let me assure you that it wasn’t that bad. My kids are excellent fliers. They love airplanes, and as long as there is a working electronic device, the baby is a dream boat. Also, our relations and friends are of the finest quality and are mostly deaf. So they couldn’t hear us and fed us marvelously, even with all of our weird food allergies and preferences. It was fantastic!

These are not my children. My children would NEVER do this. Don’t let your children do this on a plane. It is not cute or funny. Neither is kicking the seat in front of you. Even though my kids did do that. But only a couple of times – I swear.

While I was out there, I had the opportunity to run in the Ogden Half Marathon with a group of friends. Yes, I have a running problem. Yes, I run on vacation and I love it. Please don’t judge me, it’s better than smoking crack.

The week before the race I decided I’d better start doing a few little warm up runs to acclimate myself to the altitude. After all, it’s at least 5,000 feet higher there than where I live. Just a tiny bit of a difference. My nephew was running his first race ever, which just happened to be a 10k (he’s kind of amazing like that) and he asked me to run with him. I thought – Hey! Why not? Good little warm up run the week before the big run.

Saturday morning I spread my kids around the valley with various people to watch them and I headed out to a tiny little town in Cache Valley. It was freezing cold and drizzling. I don’t usually mind that kind of weather, in fact, I”m such a hot face runner, I feel better when it’s cooler rather than warmer. And rain just makes you HARD CORE!

So I sign up, get my shirt, steal a jacket from my sister-in-law (ok, so it was kind of colder than I thought it was going to be) and we head to the starting line. Since it’s his first race, he wants to be AT the starting line. I tell him, “Ok, but I run slow so I’m going to head to the side and you take off. By the way, what’s the course like?”

To this he casually replies, “Oh, it’s super easy, just run straight up the canyon until the turn around point and run back.”

“Run straight up the canyon?”

BANG!

And we were off. He was right, it was three miles straight up hill. Not only was I slow, cold, and completely having an asthma attack from the altitude, I was also at the front of the entire pack so I was being passed by everyone and their donkey. I tried to stay out of the way as I pounded up the mountain, but it was hard. Turned out there were a lot more people in the race than I had anticipated and a lot of them were extremely fast.

So, I ran and I got passed, and I ran, and I got passed, and I ran, and I got passed.

This is NOT what I looked like. This is the OPPOSITE of what I looked like.

People started heading back down the other side after about 1.5 miles – and people were still passing me. It felt like I was standing still as they whizzed past. Eventually the traffic slowed down and only a couple of people passed me, then I was all alone on my side of the road while everyone else flew past on the downhill stretch for home.

Let me tell you folks, this was the first time I was sure beyond a doubt that I was going to be the last person to cross the finish line. I’ve been in a lot of races, including a marathon that took me 5 hours to complete. I wasn’t dead last in that race, but I was very, VERY close to last. This was worse, but I kept going.

I felt sad and disappointed in myself. I felt weak and fat and (insert your favorite negative adjective here). It was just a terrible feeling. I took a deep breath and looked around me – it was a gorgeous day! Despite the rain and cold and feeling of defeat, I was surrounded by aspens and pines and huge rocks with a mountain range looming over me. The air was crisp and clean, there were little farms laid out along the road and animals of all sorts.

I hacked an asthmatic cough and took another deep breath and this time felt my whole body fill with appreciation for where I was right in that minute. Someone had to be last place. It might as well be the overweight mom from out of town. And besides, running slower meant I got to enjoy the moment longer.

Suddenly all these positive thoughts were filling my mind and lifting me up. I started to hum a bit (might as well, I’m all alone) and tried to just enjoy the oxygen deprived day.

It was with this sunny attitude that I came upon the turn around point. I happily wound around the orange cone and prepared to sail down the mountain to a victorious last place finish, when I realized that I was not alone. In fact, in front of me now, on the uphill side of the street were at least three dozen people struggling, heads down, panting, faces pained – just like I had been.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised in my life. Here I thought I was the big loser of the day, and it turned out, the farther I ran down the mountain, the more people I passed struggling up the other side. I was actually very far from being the loser. It had all been a matter of perspective.

So that’s you happy, slappy, feel-good thought for the day. When you feel like you’re being left in the dust by those around you, just wait for the dust to settle before you throw yourself a pity party. Odds are very likely that you aren’t the only one choking. And even if you are, it’s probably a beautiful day. And even if it’s horrible weather and you are all alone in last place and you might die of hypothermia, well then, I’m not sure I can help you. But I’m sure you’ll think of something. `

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4 thoughts on “Last Place

  1. Jenny, I absolutely loved that! Nate just signed us up for a 5k at the end of July. I will definitely keep your wise words in mind as I chug along with people whizzing past me.

  2. I love your perspective 🙂 And you’re the best storyteller I know–I love reading (or hearing) your stories!

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