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Finish the race

I used to be a long distance runner on my high school track team. I ran the 1500 and 3000 meter races. I wasn’t very fast—in fact, at every meet I came in last place. My father, who never got to see any of my races, used to boast to friends and relatives about his “roadrunner daughter on the GW team.” I never had the heart to tell him how truly awful I was. I’m pretty sure the only reason I was kept on the team was because there were two slots allotted for each event, and there was no one else to fill my slot. So I stayed on the team, raced every Friday and came in last every time.
I remember one race in particular where I was really having a tough time. I was so far behind I wanted to just walk off the track and hide in shame under the bleachers. By the time I came down the final stretch I was heartbroken and close to tears. But what I saw around me changed everything instantly: every single person in the stands and on the field was on their feet, clapping their hands and cheering me on to the finish line. I’ll never forget that.
The thing is, I was never embarassed about placing last. Rather, I always felt a surge of pride whenever I crossed the finish line. In my mind, I was running a race with myself. Every Friday night I raced against the voice in my head that kept telling me to give it up and go home. Finishing the race was proof that I could win against self-doubt and inner demons, and I won every single time. That’s all that mattered.
Sometimes winning the race has nothing to do with finishing first.

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