What I Learned from Running My Slowest Half Marathon Ever

This is my “I ran a half marathon but I’m not happy about it” face. Worst time ever. That’s frustrating, considering I was trying to get my best time ever. But then I remembered that I finished. And sometimes that’s enough.

One thing I was thinking of while I was running the curse of a course called the Music City Marathon with its hundred hills was how each of us was competing with ourselves.

Because the truth is we weren’t running to win it. We were running it to grow, to become better. And maybe that means simply limping across the finish line. Maybe it means running your best time ever. But the competition isn’t external. Its internal. And that’s true for a lot of things in life.

Often I am distracted by people who pass me by. Maybe they write a book and become more famous than me (which isn’t hard to do). Maybe they start a business that’s more successful than mine. And it doesn’t take as long. Maybe they make more money, have more well behaved kids, or just seem to have their crap stuff together.

Regardless, I get distracted by these people. Quite honestly they piss me off. I don’t like that I think these things, but I do.

During the race, though, it dawned on me that literally hundreds of people were passing me by. Maybe even thousands. Every single minute. And I didn’t care. Why? Because once I realized I was not going to run my best time this year (due to the fact that I hurt myself training and had to rest for three weeks, not to mention it’s been hard to train with an infant and toddler at home, and yadda yadda, yeah I know those are excuses but that’s life), I decided my goal was to finish well.

I almost wrote “just finish well.” But there is no just to finishing well. In a way, I think that’s what we are all trying to do with our lives: Finish well.

So if I could turn my failure of a race time into some kind of motivational public service announcement (which would certainly make me feel better about the whole thing), I would say this: Don’t forget to finish well.

Finish what? Well, everything.

In the work you do, finish well.

Do the best you can with what you have and try to not worry too much about who’s ahead of you. Or even what the fruit of your labor will be. Just do your work. And try not to abandon it. Complete what you start and remember getting to do this in the first place is the reward. Everything else is a perk. If it’s not, go do something else.

In relationships, try to make each moment count.

Finish the day well. This doesn’t mean you don’t get mad and scream at the kids or say something stupid to your best friend. In fact, you will most likely do all those things and more at some point. So when they happen, own them and try to choose back into the process of being a part of someone else’s life.

It’s a messy business. But it’s also a good business, the only one that really counts in my book. Life is too lonely without companions to join you in this journey. So whatever finish line you eventually find, you’re going to want people cheering you on at the end. Trust me.

And in life, when it’s all done, you definitely want to finish well.

You want to lie on your deathbed with as few regrets as possible, saying “I fought the fights worth fighting, ran the races worth running, and I have finished well.”

So when I climbed that last awful hill in downtown Nashville and was basically regretting the decision to run this race, I caught a glimpse of the finish line. And I sprinted. Well, at least the exhausted, I-just-ran-13-miles version of a sprint. But I gave it my all nonetheless.

I doubt it affected my final time much. But that wasn’t the point. Next time, I’ll train more and try harder and give myself more time to prepare. That goes without saying. But in that last moment, I knew I had a choice. I could coast across that finish line, jogging or even walking. Or I could finish well.

It would have been easy to go the easy route, but I knew I had more to give. And so I gave it one final push and didn’t regret doing so.