Am I Brave Enough to be the Last of the Last?

There is a 5K run/walk in Reno in August. I clicked through to the website and took a look at the race results from last year, thinking that this would give me something to strive for. Some idea of how fast I need to be able to walk 3.2 miles before I enter a race.

And then I realized that if I were to run in that race today, I would come in almost 10 minutes behind the last place finishers.

That gave me pause, I’m not going to lie.

I walked 2 miles today–and the good news is that it didn’t hurt. My shins didn’t turn to molten lava, even though I did one interval at 3.2 with about 90 seconds at 3.5 (which is a slow jog for me.) And that was all kinds of awesome. But it still took me 45 minutes. And I’ve found myself wondering all day if I’m brave enough to enter a race knowing that I will most likely not be able to keep up. That everyone will pull away and I’ll be left alone.

Am I brave enough to be the deathfat girl straggling in 10 minutes after the rest of the stragglers?

I don’t care about winning or placing or whatever. But can I do this, emotionally, psychologically, if I might be not only last–but way to the last?

Maybe racing with other people would push me faster, and I wouldn’t come in dead last after all.

Maybe if I wait until next summer, I’ll be able to finish a 5K in less than an hour.

Then I took a deep breath and looked at the results again. The oldest person in the race was 81. He ran the 5K with a 5.50 minute mile pace. (2.9 mph is something like a 21-minute mile.) That lifted some kind of anxiety that I wasn’t even aware of.

I might be last in my first race. Really, really last. But I’m not competing against anyone but myself. A 5K at a 2.9 mph pace is what I can do right now. Maybe I can get up to 3.0 or even 3.2 mph by August. Maybe not. But with 42 years of experience as a defiant athlete, my 81-year-old self is going to kick some ass.



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11 responses to “Am I Brave Enough to be the Last of the Last?

  1. Karen

    I participated in a 5k Run/Walk as a walker, so not only was I dead last, I was “stalked” by an ambulance all the way! A friend who walked with me slowed her pace to keep me company and we have some good pictures. We were the only walkers so I deduced that the /Walk in the title was misleading. I was worried that I would hold up the lunch and awards at the end, but since there was also a 10k at that event, I was not the last individual to cross the finish line.

    My time was exactly one hour, which is a fast walk for me. Even though I laughed about the ambulance, I have not signed up for any event since that time. Other people have told me that the presence of an ambulance was unusual so maybe someone looked at me and called it in “just in case”. I’ll never know. If I ever participate in the future, I will look for separate titles of 5k Run and 5k Walk.

    • I hate that the ambulance situation has made you uncomfortable entering events. Reading it made me think of stories about a black person being in a nice neighborhood and stalked by a police car. Like maybe someone said, this girl doesn’t belong here, call the authorities! That might not have happened in your case, of course, it’s just what I thought of.

      Thank you for sharing this. You’ve made me want to be braver.

      • Karen

        Yay for you on wanting to be braver!! I did not want to discourage you, just share what happened to me. No one pointed at me nor made any comments that I was aware of, and walking with my friend helped me keep going. She even won the medal for her age class, apparently being the only one there that day. It was a small event in a small town, so it’s entirely possible you will have a totally different experience.

      • You didn’t discourage me at all. You made me smile.

  2. mickey

    I think 2.9 mph seems like a perfectly respectable walking speed – it’s pretty close to my normal “trying to get somewhere” pace. Do you have someone to enter the run/walk with you? That has helped my anxiety in the past: Can I even go the 3K distance? 4K? 10K? The answer to all of those turned out to be “Yes”, and I liked having a goal to work towards. But, I’m not going to lie, having a friend sign-up with me, start with me, and finish with me helped a lot. You can do it – you are already at 2/3 of the distance!!

    Good luck with your training!

    • Thank’s Mickey 🙂 I actually walked a 5K at 2.9 mph last week. It was pretty exciting. I can’t even remember the last time I walked that far. I don’t have a friend to enter with, but hopefully I will have by the time I am ready to enter a race.

  3. Emily

    You can definitely do it, and based on the progress you’ve made so far (congrats on that by the way!), I have no doubt your speed will increase noticeably by August. The question is really would it be fun to do it…I’ve only run one 5k, and wouldn’t have had any fun if I hadn’t run it with a friend, but the reason I’ve only done the one is that it turns out the joy of exercise for me is meditative alone time that doesn’t occur in huge crowds early in the morning, and I think it should be all about joy. So if you think you have what you need in place for it to be fun, go for it and you’ll be awesome – but if not, you don’t have to prove anything to anybody, even yourself, by doing something you don’t expect to enjoy.

  4. Ashley

    I entered a triathlon two years ago where there were only 37 women competing at the distance I was doing. Since swimming is one of my better things and it’s most people’s worst thing, I was actually fourth after the swim, but fell to last place during the bike (my worse event) and never caught up during the run, so I finished dead-last more than 10 minutes behind the 36th person. Everybody cheered for me when I finally came around the last corner and I didn’t feel weird about finishing last at all. In my experience, every local race I’ve been in has been a super friendly environment.

  5. blessed

    My natural response after reading your feelings was to say, “hey, if I could, I would come do it with you!” because then we could keep eachother company at the far back. And everyone would be shocked to see the larger but fitter woman outpace the thinner but more out-of-shape woman. Lots of thin people are not able to do what you are proposing to do–they just are not followed by the ambulance, probably staying home instead. It’s a good thing I can’t join you, because I would be DYING before we had reached 3 blocks. I am not at all HAES and you are helping motivate me to care!

    • I would love to do a 5K with you. I’m really looking forward to getting back to school in October, where getting to the library requires a 1/2 mile or so hike through the woods (seriously). In the last two semesters, that hike was torture. Beautiful, and doable alone, but hateful when I knew if I went with other people I was going to be huffing and puffing in the back by myself. I’m looking forward to seeing what that hike feels like after 10 months of training.

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