“What Place Did You Finish In?”

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

That’s usually the second question I hear after a marathon.

The first question is often “How did the race go?” Some people also want to know about any lingering aches and pains, or they ask to see the medal or race shirt.

I get it. Friends, family and colleagues mean well. And they’re curious about this seemingly super-human accomplishment. If you’re a runner, perhaps you’ve forgotten when finishing 26.2 miles seemed like a big deal. But to most people, running a marathon, or any distance race, is an other-worldly feat. One that the vast majority of our population think “I could never do that.”

But isn’t that precisely the beauty of the marathon? Proving to yourself that deep within you beats the heart of a badass? Mining the transformative joy of accomplishing something you once believed to be only capable by the rarest of athletes? You endure months of training, and then race the streets in celebration, crossing a finish line that punctuates your journey, while also symbolizing the start of new dreams, possibilities, and adventures ahead. The medal placed around your neck declaring that the once impossible peak has been summited, and you are no longer the same person who tentatively registered for the race months before.

You’re stronger.

Your vision is clearer.

Your dreams are bigger.

You’ve overcome fears, doubts, injuries, weather, naysayers, and an array of other obstacles, one mile at a time, and along the journey, you changed.

Running taught you priceless lessons. Running made you a better version of yourself. Running opened new doors, and broadened your selection of new starting lines.

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

It is an innocent question, but perhaps it is the wrong question. It asks us to compare ourselves to others, and threatens to rob us of the joy forged over countless miles. The question tries to measure what is immeasurable, and quantify qualities that are intangible. Most of us don’t run to measure ourselves against others, but to measure against ourselves.

The joy of running past another runner is short lived and shallow, but the joy of passing our own previous thresholds, is enduring, and solid. We run to inhale nature and beauty. We run to exhale the negativity and pressures that invade life. We run to experience new destinations, interact with other cultures, and explore the wonderings of our spirits and the yearnings of our souls.

We run for camaraderie.

We run for solitude.

We run for purpose.

We run for freedom.

We run because we can.

We run, because we know others who cannot.

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

The question is asked because on some level, the people who care about us, run with us. They cheer us on from near or afar. They race through us, vicariously, imagining what it is like to be in our shoes, without really wanting to be in our shoes. Because let’s face it, the marathon is daunting. The marathon purges your muscles, your diet, and your schedule. It requires all your energy, and then takes your reserves. It depletes you, exhausts you, and breaks you down, completely.

But the marathon replenishes. It builds new muscle, new habits, new friendships and new dreams. It pays you back a hundred fold, and in the process, removes toxic habits and attitudes, cleansing you in the process.

The marathon is daunting. So is any obstacle you willingly throw yourself into. A new career. A new relationship. A new address. Writing a book. Tackling a triathlon. Going back to get that degree. Starting your own business.

Whatever the obstacle, it may be daunting. But within you, lies an undaunted spirit, waiting to be forged and fashioned. Sign up for it. Register yourself. Go all-in. Your own personal “whatever-athon”. It doesn’t have to be 26.2 miles. It might just be one. Or it might not require running at all. But it will scare you. It will at times terrify you, calling up the haunting voices that whisper failure in your ears.

Your “whatever-athon” will require more of you than you ever though you had, but that is the beauty, because if you stay the course, you’ll find out there is a lot more inside of you than you ever realized. There is more courage. More grit. More brilliance, compassion, patience, and hope. Nobody else may have recognized it before, and the naysayers may have tried to make you believe that it wasn’t there, but remember that all the good stuff is on the other side of fear. Don’t be afraid of what lies ahead of you, or what is buried within you, because both of those places have immeasurable treasure waiting to be discovered. Your “whatever-athon” may be daunting…

But you can be undaunted.

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

You’re still curious? Fine. Well, I didn’t win the race. I wasn’t the first across the line. But I finished 1st place in my division. You know, the grouping of males, aged 50-55, who share my same birth date, birth parents, and birth name. Out of the over 45,000 finishers, I was the 31,0111th person to cross the line. But I finished, with arms triumphantly raised, an elated smile across my face, and just as proud as the first person, or the final person. The once impossible, now in my rear-view mirror, and a vast expanse of possibilities before me. Ready for my next “whatever-athon”. My finish line, bearing witness to wonderful new starting lines.

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