being still in God's big world

Finishing Last

As the sun came up just after arriving.

Someone has to do it. All of the running blogs and articles tell you that you “most likely” will not finish last when you race. Well, this morning I went and ran a 3.59 mile trail run with only 45 other people. As soon as I saw how small the field was, how BIG the hills were, and the crazy people in shorts and pro running gear running up and down hills for a prerace warm-up I knew there was a very strong likelihood I could actually finish last.

My friend Jane and I started in the back of the pack. With every steep downhill I went back to elementary science and thought: What goes down must come back up. Man alive, the second half of the course was going to be BRUTAL! I kept pace with Jane for the first half of the run but then I needed to back off. My lungs were on fire and running up the hills was not going to happen. I ran on the flats and downhills (which were becoming fewer and farther between) and walked up the hills. But not once did I feel badly about my position. I knew I was pushing myself as hard as I could. The last thing I needed to do was go and have an asthma attack in the middle of the woods – and the whistling in my lungs warned that was a distinct possibility. There were 3 of us at the back of the pack. I could see Jane ahead of me and one other girl a little further ahead. I joked with the officials positioned around the course that “I was making sure everyone made it out of the woods safely.” I listened to my body and pushed it even when I thought I couldn’t but knew it was safe to try.
Starting line before we began. Notice the folks in shorts!

There have been a lot of articles recently about back of the pack runners questioning if we are committed or even “real runners.” It feels a little like the questions I fielded when I was a transitional deacon. To be honest, while it is a little frustrating to know that these elite runners feel the need to comment about what may or may not be motivating runners like me, I really don’t care all that much. I will never be competing for a first place medal – and that’s okay. I am competing only with myself. I am competing to be better than I was yesterday. I am competing to use the body God gifted me with. That’s all – and that should be enough. I am no threat to the elites and I see no reason why it’s become so important for some people in that high bracket of runners to discourage a new crop of runners who might never run a 3 hour marathon (or run a marathon at all!), but who are getting off the couch, making their lives healthier, and inspiring others to do the same.

As I trudged up the hill to the finish line this morning I laughed at myself as I repeated over and over in my head: “and the last shall be first.” I felt like I finished first as I looked down the hill and realized that I had done it. (I know that’s not what Jesus meant when he said it, but he doesn’t mind that I took the scripture out of context – I checked with him.) I don’t know my split times because my running app froze during the race – but that’s okay because I completed my goal: I finished.


  1. Abuela Marty

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  2. gcwilder

    Way to go!!! You did it!! Whoooo hoooo! It isn’t how fast but how far and you did finish! High five!

  3. Jane Loughney

    Love this blog Audrey – You have truly captured the spirit of that day and the beautiful photo memories tell the story so vividly for me. Ah, a few words for what that trail felt like – Imagine your right foot almost always making contact with the ground – like it would is you were running on flat ground – now imagine your left foot constantly tracking – because you are indeed running on a very frosty grass incline on a brisk and Gorgeous October Morning – Glad I finished – thanks to Audrey & Gods Beautiful day, I was duly inspired to do so. With calf muscles fired up for that finish line, I know I stretched my endurance and that is my take-away…Its not about how fast you run, its getting through the hills, the unexpected, jumping over tree limbs, and there were a lot of them to navigate! Thanks for the encouragement Audrey:-))

  4. Paula Sypteras

    Really liked this blog entry, Audrey. Jane is my very good friend, and I look forward to entering my 1st 5K with her soon. I share your philosophy about it: not really interested in where I place in it, just interested in finishing 🙂 Thank you for further inspiring me. Maybe I will run alongside Jane AND you someday. Keep running!

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