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The field as collective

I posted recently to Instagram

about my experience coming in last place at XC nationals my first year of college. Though the feelings of embarrassment and disappointment from that day have long faded, I will never forget crossing the finish line into the arms of the first-place finisher. In a powerful display of gratitude and generosity of spirit, she had waited at the finish to congratulate every single runner that day.

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Though that November morning 21 years ago was my most public DFL, it was not my first. In fact, I spent my entire inaugural season of high school track bringing up the rear before a summer of hard work catapulted me to the front. I can’t remember much of those races at all. But I remember the teammates who cheered me in. I remember the reigning state champion pacing me from the infield at the conference meet and telling me to finish strong. Those moments left an impression on me. They made me feel like I belonged. And because of them, I kept running.

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Here’s the deal: unless you’re world champion, you can always find a competition where you’ll shake out towards the back. The field is a collective where each of us are necessary.

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Being at the pointy end of a race is a privilege. And that privilege comes with responsibility. I am forever grateful to the people who took on this mantle and invited me inside - the teammates, the folks at the finish, the pros who invited me to train with them many years ago when I aspired to the same.

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First place, last place, or somewhere in between - how can you race in a way that makes a positive contribution to someone else’s journey?


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