Monday, 30 December 2013

Last post

But what if I come last?” I was asked, over coffee, earlier this year.

At the start of the year, I set out some goals for becoming a better runner. I achieved almost all of my goals: I ran happy, I talked to other runners, I thanked marshals, I marshaled. I also tried to persuade some colleagues to enter a couple of events this year; however, despite some initial interest, there wasn't much take up. Various reasons were given, all fair enough; you can’t make someone do something they don't want to do. One question stood out among all the responses: What if I come last?  

What if?

This summer, my friend sent me a link to a tweet from a fitness professional with this motivational tidbit to stop us losing any sleep over this nagging doubt:

Did that help you? No, I didn’t think so either.

Luckily, this year, I found out the answer to the question a different way: I finished last in a race.

It wasn't easy but this is how I did it:

1. I entered a race that scared the bejesus out of me;
2. I made a promise to a friend, sadly too late for him to hear, that I would finish that race;
3. I started this race at 6.15pm, in the full knowledge that I would still be racing while others slept, and when they woke again in the morning;
4. I swam 2.4 miles in a lake with a thunderstorm looming overhead;
5. I cycled 112 miles on a 20-lap course, along a dual carriageway, through rain, thunder and lightning;
6. I had a maniacally enthusiastic cheering squad, who stood on a roundabout, in the rain, holding up signs, placating angry motorists, eating chips, guest tweeting, and helping other competitors with mechanical problems so that they could continue with their race;
7. I mended two punctures so that I could keep going – one at midnight, one at 2am – both in the pouring rain;
8. It rained so hard, I actually did a wee while riding my bike (taking care to remove my bottle first from the frame below);
9. I got off my bike and started running a marathon at 3.30 am (it had finally stopped raining by this point);
10. I was never more happy to start running a marathon (even one that took place on an 8-lap course around an industrial estate);
11. I fell asleep on my feet momentarily while running that marathon, only waking myself with the thud of my own footfall;
12. I smiled and chatted to the other competitors and marshals still out there on that marathon course; this included a competitor who, after he finished, drove around the run course to find me before he left, to tell me to enjoy the rest of my race;
13. I ran every step, even when my one remaining supporter was able to walk faster than me, carrying a rucksack and a deckchair;
14. I ran past the finish line 7 times before I was actually allowed to finish;
15. At 10 am, I finished, smiling, well over an hour before the race cut off;
16. I got a handshake on the finish from the kindest, most dedicated race organiser I've ever met; he later sent me an email telling me that I was a “true ironlady”;
17. I received an amazing card in the post from one of my enthusiastic roundabout supporters, re-iterating this sentiment;
18. In a field of 65 entrants, 29 of us finished. I was 29th;
19. In a field of 5 women, 4 finished. I was 4th;
20. I kept the promise to my friend.

Card by Laura
In 2013, I completed my first ironman and I came last. I didn’t intend to be last. I set out to finish
and finish I did. The thing is, I learned more about myself, my patience, resilience, and determination, by coming last in that race than in any other event where I’ve placed midfield, top 10, or even won.

Finishing last in a race is not something that should put anyone off. Perhaps it would do us all some good to experience it at least once.

I have entered another ironman for 2014: The Bastion at Hever Castle. I completed the half-iron distance, The Gauntlet, in September this year, so I know how tough this race is going to be for me. I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead. I don't go into this race intending to be last but there is every possibility that it will happen.  

What if I come last?

If it’s the difference between doing something and not, I would rather take last any day.  

Wishing you a happy and successful 2014!


  1. As someone who had a canoe escort to denote their position as 'last lady' in the swim portion of a triathlon, I'd say coming last can actually be quite fun. I got to chat to the canoe driver and ask him where the turnaround was. Possibly less chatting would have made a quicker swim split but I was just getting value for money. Races are expensive, take you time!

  2. This post has seriously inspired me, what you did was blooming amazing! I sometimes worry about finishing last, but yes finishing last is better than not finishing at all!

  3. Loved this post, brought a lump to my throat (not sure why). Inspiring, admirable, amazing - bloody well done I guess! Good luck for next year...

  4. I also got my first last place in 2013! You're looking at the last Senior Woman (another category I'm getting used to being in) Serpie at the 3rd Met League race.

    I don't want anyone telling me it's OK to finish last or sugar coating it with a cutsey fitspo saying (save the sugar for the cakes). I just want to do it and enjoy it.

  5. Excellent post making an excellent point. You never (or rarely) regret the things that you have done. Perhaps that can be my mantra for 2014.

  6. Brilliant!

    Nails. Iron ones. Hard as.

    Seriously well done for what what you have achieved.

  7. Very good post :) You are totally hard core and amazing.

  8. Great post. And with less than half the field finishing, technically you finished ahead of those that didn't make it to the end (although that's really not the point - I'm all for having more experiences over not doing things in the first place).


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