Confessions of a Last-Place Finisher

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
– Michael Jordan

I want to show you a picture I took just before I started a 10-mile race this morning. I want you to pay particular attention to one part of the picture, okay? Here, let me point it out for you….


Did you catch that? The smile…see it? Well, let me tell you my dears, that was the last time that bad boy was on my face until much later in the day. Why’s that, you ask?

I’ve been running for three and a half years now and today – “it” happened for the first time.

I, Melissa Edmondson, finished dead last in a race.

That’s right. LAST. 

So…as is the usual custom for me, I’ve decided to write about it.  You know – take an embarrassing situation and make it public. Because that seems to help.

I’m going to take you on a little trip. You ready? Now, you may want to sit back and prepare yourself – seatbelts and whatnot – because you, my friends, are about to take a little journey through my brain. Gentlemen, start your engines….

One heaping helping of humility coming right up!

Thoughts That Run Through a Last-Place Finisher’s Brain:

1. Man, that first mile was FAST! Get it, girl. Should we slow down? Nahhhh…we’ll need that time we just saved. You’re killing it!

2. Second mile? Fast again! Dang, girl. Now, you know you have 8 more of these to do, right? And it’s going to start going uphill. Think we should slow down a bit?  Heck no, this is a race! Rev it, baby!

3. Oh, here comes the finish line for the 5K runners. If I only did the 5K, I’d be finished now. But no way – not me! I’m a distance runner! A big, bad distance runner! Good-bye, 5Kers, I’m moving on. Woohoo!

4. Hmmm. Is it just me, or is it really quiet now that the 5K people are gone? Where’s everyone at?

5. *Cricket. Cricket. Cricket.*

6. I’m just going to take a quick peek behind me and see what’s back there. This is a long straight-stretch so I should be able to get a good feel for who is behind me.

7. WTF?! Where are the other racers? No, seriously. Where are they?

8. Oh God, here come the hills. You can do this, you can do this. You’re a distance runner. You’re a distance runner.

9. It’s frickin hot out here.

10. Okay, mile 5. That wasn’t too bad. Half-way through. You can do this, you can do this.

11. *Another peek back.*

12. I’m seriously the last person.

13. Okay, here comes mile 7. Yay, a water stop!  An excuse to walk! At least I don’t know anyone out here…I’m just a stranger finishing last, no biggie.

14. Oh crap. Is that my friend running the water station?  WHAT!? Yep, that’s her. Oh no. And look at the sweet little girl handing out water. Act happy. Act happy.

15. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile.

16. I think my friend may have just taken a picture. I hope I smiled. And I hope the cops weren’t behind me in the picture since I’m last. Oh, did I mention I’m in last place?


17.  I bet I didn’t smile. *Turning to look behind me.* And yep, there’s the po-po. Great.

18. Mile 8. You’re not dead. Keep going. You can do this. You can do this.

19. You can’t do this. You suck. Just quit now.

20. Good God are these hills ever going to stop!? Who runs a race in the mountains? And where are all the other people in this thing? Seriously!? What are they, aliens? Who runs this fast in the heat and hills? I hate them. I hate me. I hate everyone and everything.

21. I’m totally going to blog about this.

22. I’m totally not going to blog about this. This is embarrassing.

23. I need Coke. (The liquid kind.)

23. Mile 9. My phone is dying. OMG – seriously? All this work and my phone is dying? Now, how am I going to post on Facebook about how miserable I am?


24. Oh, good – another aid station!  I hope there’s Coke.

25. No Coke. Jerks.

26. I’m kidding, they’re not jerks. These volunteers are so dang nice. I wish I wasn’t almost dead so I could actually tell them how much I appreciate them.

27. Phone just died. My life is over.

28. For the love of God, here comes another hill. Screw it. I’m walking.

29. You’re going to walk in the last mile? Hell, yeah I am.

30. You shouldn’t walk in the last mile. You’re almost there.

31. SHUT UP!

32. I know these volunteers want to go home, and I’m the sole reason they’re still out here. I suck.

33. I KNOW that has been more than a mile. Am I being punked?

34. Oh good, a cop escort. Wave at him. Wave at him. Smile. Be nice. It’s not his fault you’re last – he’s just doing his job.

35. THANK GOD! I see the finish line! I hope the cop doesn’t turn his siren on. I’ve seen them do that at the end of a race. How embarrassing that would be.  Please, please, please, let me just slip across the finish line quietly with no fanfare.

36. *SIREN*

37. I hate my life.


And there you have it, folks. A dead last race finish.

I was fully prepared to head home and throw my running shoes in the trash. Okay, maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic, but I had seriously decided that distance running was no longer in the cards for me. I just didn’t have what it took and that was all there was to it.

But then…the next few hours passed.  And in those few hours, a few things happened.

First, I had this conversation by text with my teenage daughter:


*sniff* What an awesome kid.

Then, I texted a friend who completely understood me and let me vent. That was nice. Yes, I finished. No, I didn’t quit. But sometimes we need those friends in our lives who “get it.” You know? The ones who just let you rant and swear you’ll never run again, but who know you’ll come crawling back like you always do.

Then, I got a message from the friend who was handing out water. (The po-po picture-taker.) This is what it said:

I am not as elegant with words as you but I will try to express my feelings. I was honored to cheer you on this morning and offer water to those who passed by. The race is only possible because of runners like you. Thank you. Running is not a gift of mine, and I would stand out there for 6 hours if it meant serving someone who is serving others. Grateful to call you friend.

Here come the sniffles again….

I’m not even going to pretend that I am happy with my performance in this race. That would be a lie. But geez, it’s not the end of the world. I was alive to run. And in this race, in particular, I should especially remember that. This race was done in honor of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It started three years ago as a small honorary race for a fallen police officer, and has now grown into a wonderful thing that lets so many family members of other lost heroes know that the community cares for their loss and appreciates their sacrifice.

Sure, I was last. But I am alive. I was running. I was moving. I could come home and whine and complain and then wake up tomorrow morning and start all over. Some people don’t have that luxury.

I will live to run again. It was just a bad race, that’s all. It happens. I just need to take a breath, relax my aching muscles, and get up and try again.

I suppose that’s what life is all about, right?


“I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
– Proverb

24 responses »

  1. I’m sitting at work today and my coworkers and I are laughing so hard at this! You gave us some major laughs when you were talking about the POPO sirens. My coworker and I are new to this running stuff and can totally see this happening to us! Hats off to you for finishing. I would have called for a secret driver to drive by and pick me up. Keep blogging! You have a major talent for it! I love how the friend sent that message. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up.

  2. Let me just start out by saying how much I love you and your ability to write about your life and experiences that relate to so many of us. I’m so proud of you for running that race yesterday and I hope that next year I will be running right next to you in it. I ran in the first Hunters Heros 5K and it was an amazing experience. I told myself afterwards that I was going to do the 10 miler next time. Things sometimes don’t go as planned in our lives, but I know I will be there next year. I was laughing out loud at your thought process during the race, you are hilarious! But I also agree that you are an inspiration for me, and so many others. Why you ask? Look at what you have been through in your life and look at where you are now. You said it yourself you started running 3 1/2 years ago. Did you ever think 4 years ago that you would have been able to do what you did yesterday? You ARE a distance runner and you DID finish without giving up….you ARE a FIGHTER and not a quitter, don’t you ever forget that. I’m proud to call you a friend!!!

  3. Awesome! I too am a back of the backer. I haven’t come in dead last but I am always near the end. I know some day it will happen and I’ll feel just like you. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Love. I understand where you were coming from. The note from the volunteer brought tears. We are always harder on ourselves than we need to be. As I was running my first has this past May, I was ready to throw in the towel when I remembered where I was running (The Avenue of the Giants, CA) and how many people I knew that would NEVER have the opportunity to do what I was doing. At that time also, my brother in law was in a care facility on oxygen and I know he will never see those beautiful redwood trees.
    He is doing better, and I am thankful for all the running blessings I have received as I can tell you are too!
    Thank You for doing your best.

  5. Got a link to this from a friend on Facebook. Loved it. Someone has to come last just as someone has to come first and all the other places in between. Few people have the ability to communicate the journey to last place so well. Thank you!

  6. I can relate to your post. I too recently finished last in a race. It was the best thing. It was a reality check, and a humility check. I’d set out with a strange sensation that might WIN the race. Never happened before but .. Then after a fast start I was spent after 1k, yes 1k. People kept coming past me. I struggled for the next 6k. I realised I was last and stopped worrying. I eventually found a rythym and cruised home quick… About 10 mins behind the last finisher. Next couple of runs weren’t much better but I decided to stop timing and enjoy it, feel it and reconnect. This week o had one of theist enjoyable 8k recces ever. Hopefully the actual race will be nice too. My point though… To echo yours, is placings and times are about ego… Not why we run at all. Enjoy it, be happy.

  7. I had to leave a comment. I tot9saw myself saying everything you said to yourself. This made me laugh that my mom Me to read it back to her and she laughed too. Thank you so much for thus post!

  8. I have come in dead last in all but 2 of my races and I need to tell you,
    Thank You.
    Thank You for finishing, thank you for blogging about it, thank you for now being able to understand and pass the knowledge on about how we who are dead last think and feel.
    Doesn’t matter if it’s 1mile or 26.2 or ultra miles, if we start we are ahead of the fear in ourselves and if we finish…
    We Won!
    Congratulations on your Win 💖

  9. I ran my first marathon when I was three weeks pregnant with my fist child. (No, I didn’t know I was pregnant!)My time was 5:12:17. I was embarrassed when I got home because my mom posted a big banner in my yard with the time. I didn’t want anyone to know it had taken me so long. She will be a year old in July. I plan to run my second marathon in November. I will most likely finish dead last. But I WILL finish, and that’s what it’s about for me right now. The process. The thoughts. Being one of the 4% of the population that can do it. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Great blog!! I signed up for a 3-way challenge race (10k, 5k, half) and made that my goal race of this year. I did ok during the 10k and 5k then the half was the next day. The whole course was full of hills which I wasn’t ready for. The cop car was back in the distance the entire race. About half way through, there was 5 of us all walking together with the cop was right behind us. We ended up finishing the race together and we hugged at the finish line. It was an incredible moment even being dead last! Thankfully no siren for us though! And I will train more for the next race! 🙂

  11. I know exactly how you felt that day. I ran my first 10k last yr and came in dead last. I was telling the volunteers thank you for staying as I would run passed them. Lol At one point towards the end I ran past an EMS squad and I must’ve looked like I was about to die because he kept asking me if I was alright. I assured him I was fine but I don’t think he believed me because he followed me to the finish line. Lol.
    I used to worry about being dead last but now I no longer have that fear so now I can enjoy the 1/2 marathon I’m currently training for. 😆

  12. Lol!!!! This totally happened to me this year for the first time! I thought all of those same thoughts! Can totally relate thank you for sharing.

  13. OMG You nailed it!!!! You’ve captured that voice in my head verbatim!!! I get you! I feel you! And don’t you ever stop because here’s a little tip I learned to say: “I paid good money to enter this race and I’m gonna get my money’s worth!” 🙂

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  15. This is an AWESOME story!! So inspiring, funny, motivating and everything in between. You had me laughing and crying all at the same time 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  16. Pingback: Typical Runner | Missyspublicjunk

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