You’ve seen the pictures, the Facebook posts. You’ve watched the coverage on the news and heard people’s stories. But what you don’t know, is the real story.
The happiest, saddest, most thrilling and emotional place of any race is the finish line. Hands held high, faces smiling, sticking out a tongue, giving a peace sign, tears streaming down their cheeks, letting out a yell, those are the various faces you’ll see on the finish line. However, none of them tell the real story.
You see, the real story is told over the weeks of training, over the course of the race. The finish line is the final chapter, the climax of the story.
Have you ever read a book and flipped to the last few pages, the last chapter, to get a glimpse as to how it ends? Come on now…just about everyone has at some time in their lives! Well, the finish line is just like that. The emotion that you see on the finish line is that final chapter, but the story is written over the weeks of training, over the course of the race.
There is so much more that happens during the weeks of training for a race or running a race, than just the physical changes. Sure people may lose weight, get stronger legs or arms, be able to run further, swim better or not get as winded doing the things they used to before and those are all wonderful results. But there is another change, a personal change, that takes place for just about everyone. That is what you’re really seeing on the finish line.
During the weeks of training, there is a lot of alone time. A lot of time to think about who you are, what you want to accomplish, the life you want to live. There is a lot of time to think about those you love, your family, your friends.
There are highs, when you suddenly realize, wow, I’m stronger and much more capable than I ever thought. There are lows, when you wonder how you became so unmotivated, so stressed, so lonely, so out of shape. There are times you think you can conquer the world and other times when you wonder how you can run one more step.
The training changes your perspective of who you are as a person, what you’re capable of, what you want to achieve. It changes your perspective of those around you, the world at large and your place in it. You can feel larger than life and infinitely small in the time that it takes you to run a 5K or swim 500 meters.
As you run your race, all those hours of training come back to you. Hitting you like a flood of emotion the closer you get to the finish line. You remember the hours spent training, the early mornings and sacrifices you or your family had to make to get you here. You remember the conversations you had with yourself, the highs and the lows. You remember the friends, co-workers and family that supported you. You remember back to where you were physically, mentally, and emotionally when you started and quickly realize how different you are today, both good and bad.
All of this hits you over the course of your race. And as you near the finish line, you can’t stop the emotion. For here you are, nearing the completion of an incredible journey. Changed, hopefully for the better, but changed none the less. Never able to go back to the person you once were and for many, not ever wanting to.
And as you cross the finish line, you let all that emotion out. Celebrating the person you have become and the journey you have completed. You may cry out of joy and happiness or grin from ear to ear as I do for EVERY finish. For it is not the race itself or the physical feat that you are celebrating, but the person you have become and the hours of training that got you here.
Be it a 5K, triathlon or ultra-marathon, the finish line is the same. A celebration of the lives of those who are competing and the incredible individuals they have become! So as you stand at your next finish line or watch a race on tv, give a little cheer and moment of thanks to each person crossing that line, for they have just finished telling one story and for many are ready to start another.
What is your favorite finish line moment? And what made it so special?