Just Don’t Be Last

We are rapidly approaching the end of track season. I’ll just go ahead and take a moment right off the top and brag on my son, he has had a great season and took 4th in the 800 m run last week at Regionals to advance to the State Meet this weekend. So yeah, I’m pretty proud of him. He’s put in a lot of hard work, and it’s been amazing to watch him grow and improve this season.

All bragging aside . . . we’ve clocked quite a few hours at track meets this spring, and because my son runs the 800 m and the 400 m (and the 200 m earlier in the season), there’s a lot of waiting between races. So, we spend most of that time watching races where we know not a single runner because what else are you going to do while you wait?

A couple meets back, we were waiting for Andrew’s heat in the 800 m, and therefore watching all the other boys run. Here’s the thing about the 800. It’s kind of torturous. It takes a mixture of both speed and endurance with a whole heck of a lot of heart and guts, and maybe, a pinch of insanity to want to run that race. And sometimes, kids underestimate how hard it’s going to be . . . especially in the moment. They take off too fast, they don’t pace properly, and they find themselves running out of steam somewhere during the second lap. But if there’s anything to love about track (there are actually a whole lot of things to love about track), it’s the way the kids encourage one another. Teammates, running mates, new acquaintances . . . they’re competing against one another while at the same time cheering each other on.

So we’re watching the first few heats of the race, and it’s the second lap of the 800 . . . last 200(ish) meters . . . this poor kid is fading fast. Running on fumes would be an exaggeration . . . but along comes his friend and teammate . . . running alongside him on the infield . . . yelling at him to keep going, not to slow down. Then his friend says what may have been the best thing I’ve heard all season, “Just don’t be last!!!” Y’all, I laugh every time I think about it . . . “Just don’t be last!!!”.

There’s no great inspirational message here. In true teenage boy fashion, it was a perfect recipe of brutal honesty and complete insensitivity. But you know what? I love it. That kid didn’t need to hear a “You can do it!” or a “You’re doing great!” What he needed was his friend yelling at him not to be last. To push him to push harder. He needed that brutal honesty in that moment, and he finished that race with everything he had in him. Not to mention, he wasn’t last.

So, ladies and gentlemen there you have it. My new life motto brought to you by a teenage track runner . . . because sometimes we need all the flowery inspirational quotes and messages, and sometimes we just need the brutal honesty that keeps us in forward motion. Just don’t be last!

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