Sweat pours down your face as you squint into the sun, arms pistoning at your sides. Your legs are jelly, your breath comes in broken heaves, and you absolutely long to quit. Everything in you begs you to give up. But instead, you tell yourself to keep pushing.
You hear footsteps to your left. They’re getting louder. Hot puffs of breath sweep up from behind. A competitor is closing in. The crowd is in a frenzy — feet stamping, hands clapping, voices chanting in unison. Out of the corner of your eye you can see the other runner now, blurry and blazingly fast. Something primal rises up from deep within you. Even as tired as you are, you run faster.
Cheers erupt in the stands as the runner from behind surges forward, past you. He leaps across the finish line, arms high in victory. You, on the other hand, don’t stop to celebrate. You aren’t so showy. Besides, you realize, as you round another corner — arms still pistoning, legs plodding forward — you still have three laps to go.
As someone who has (many times) been the very last to finish a race, I know how it feels. Sure, somebody has to come last. But as the rest of the runners finish their race and you realize that you’re the only one left still running, it can feel a tad… lonely. And when your muscles refuse to fire, your cheeks are flushed and hot, and the crowd has lost interest, turning their attention to the next event and the nearest bathroom, it can start to feel like, what’s the point?
But “the point” of running is rarely about winning. It’s about pushing yourself to your limit and coming out on the other side, better for having done so. It’s about the strength and personal fortitude it takes to finish at all. It’s about the rush of endorphins that come from giving something all that you’ve got. The final finishers in a race are a testament to endurance and perseverance. They’re the ones who refused to surrender — proving the point each time they place one foot in front of the next.
The following athletes, may not have won their races — and by “not won” we mean “they came in dead last” — but they still accomplished something significant. They gave it their all and left everything they had on the track (sometimes literally). Even the most casual weekend warrior can take inspiration from these stories of last place finishers. Because when we approach every run with their enduring spirit, when we refuse to quit, we win too.