You Have To Finish To Win

finishtowinThey don’t give the win to the person who runs the fastest 26 miles of a Marathon, the win goes to the person who runs the fastest 26.2 miles. You have to finish to win.

Yesterday was my third big race in four weeks. It was a 50K trail race that I ran to train but not to race. It turned into quite the epic day with the weather, course conditions, and the nature of the terrain. Early on in the race, I sort of decided to drop half-way through and call it a day. But I didn’t.

The goals for this race were rather loose and flexible. The first goal was to add mileage to my week and overall training volume. And not just for the week but for the past four weeks which make up a very large training cycle. My second goal was to have fun, period. Just run at an easy pace and enjoy the day. I didn’t have a set time goal but I wanted to show up with something moderately respectable. “Winning” yesterday was a lot more subjective than placement or a fast finishing time. Sometimes you have to have finish to win.

Four weeks ago I ran a trail marathon where I came in 11th overall and 1st in my age-group. The week after that I had a 133-mile mountain bike ride which was a huge adventure and a large training day. Last weekend I raced a 50-mile race where I came in 3rd in my age-group and ran at maximum effort. There was no way that I could have run the race yesterday at that effort and I knew going into it that was the case.

From the start, things were hard and I could feel the effects of the last four weeks in my legs, actually in my entire body. There was a lot of accumulated fatigue for me to work through and deal with and as tough as that was, I wanted to run “tired” and build off of that fatigue. But as the miles added up at the beginning and things began to come undone, I wanted to quit.  I wanted to quit and had rather made up my mind to do that at the half-way point or so.

And the weather was horrendous. Rain, lots of cold rain which wasn’t that bad to run in except for the fact that it made the trails a sloppy muddy mess. With the fatigue, the rain, and the mud, my second goal of “having fun” was not happening either. To be honest, it turned into the second worst day of racing/running ever, and the only reason that it is second is that the other race with similar conditions was three times longer.

With those two situations, my time and speed out there was not where I wanted it to be either. I was slow; Very slow. So more or less none of my goals was happening as I had hoped. But even with all of that I chose to finish no matter what because at least then I could at least get a long day in and capitalize on the weeks of previous training and racing.

It never got easy and it never was fun but I stuck it out and finished, eventually. And though it was less than a stellar performance for that particular day, I know that what I did out there will only make me stronger and able to “win-better” in the future. But I had to finish in order to reap those benefits.

If I had dropped at the halfway point I would have still had a good day/week/weeks of training built but it would have been a letdown of sorts at the same time. Yesterday allowed me to exercise a different muscle, my “stick-to-it” muscle which is so very important to have in any situation when you pursuing a goal. It could be running, it could be learning a new skill, building a business, or anything else where the strength and results from not stopping outweighs any other intrinsic benefits.

As I said earlier, sometimes you have to finish to win, even if the results were not what you were expecting or hoping for.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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P.S. I completely enjoyed my impromptu vacation last week. It gave me a chance to catch up on things in my life and to focus on other things. Now I get to come back to my writing and my work refreshed and with some new perspectives on things.


  1. I’m thinking there is a lot of validity to what you are speaking. The really big, hairy goals come with some really tough work. Sometimes it is doing things I really don’t care to do, but I make agreements with myself to accomplish those steps along the way to get to the big, hairy ass goal. I used to think once happiness was achieved I would just be happy! Or-once I was in shape I would be “in shape”. What I’m discovering is that happiness, contentment, joy, bliss, pride, etc bubbles up after some difficulties that get worked through. It seems the hard work done well is where happiness lies…and then it goes away for the next bout of discovery! It seems that deliberately, or maybe consciously, choosing where I would like to suffer/grow helps a ton too!
    Congrats on not letting panic get entangled with your fear and finishing a tough day out at the races!

    • 3peaksblog says:

      Great points Andrea, thank you! I am still reflecting on yesterday and it occurs to me that endurance is not just an ability but also a “mindset” that one must practice as well in order to persevere.

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