So often the term “back of the pack” comes with negative connotations. And in a sport where being the fastest is the goal, I can understand why. For many of us though, we know we will never be the fastest. We know we will never stand on that podium. We know we are only competing against ourselves. So I propose we change the stigma around the “back of the pack”. Because, really, it’s a pretty awesome place to be! So, from someone who has been dead last in more than one race, here’s 5 reasons why it totally rocks:
1. It’s super chill
One of my favorite things to do on an out and back course, is to cheer for the runners on their way back. The first group of runners often don’t even notice. I don’t think they’re being rude, I think they’re just so focused that they block everything else out. As you move further down the line, you’ll start getting some nods or a smile. Keep going and you’ll start to get a wave thrown in there too. The further back you get, the bigger the response, until eventually they’re throwing cheers right back at you! Just to be clear, I’m not saying anything against front of the pack runners (they’re awesome!), all I’m saying, is that their goals and their focus is different. In the back, that’s where the party is!
2. Band of Brothers (sisters?)
There’s something about shared misery that brings us together. Running with the same people for hours at a time will pretty much guarantee you are BFFs by the end. You’ll chat it up like you’re old friends, sharing your running experiences and encouraging one another. After the race, you’ll find each other and compare your war stories. You may never see each other again, but you’ll always remember the ones that helped you through.
3. You’re a Supermodel
The crowd tends to thin out as you get closer to the back. The best part about that? You get the photographers all to yourself. So that means they’ll have plenty of time to get a good shot of you. Silly and vain? Maybe. But we’ve all seen the bad race photos. And who wants that?!
4. Security Detail
If you’re lucky enough to be dead last, you’ll get your own private security detail. Someone in a special vehicle to drive behind you to keep you safe. You’re pretty much a celebrity at that point. In all seriousness though, the last half marathon I ran, I was really grateful for this. I was often alone on secluded roads and knowing that there was someone there in case something happened was very reassuring.
While the finish line crowds are smaller at the tail end of a race, I think they cheer harder. When you’re the only one running down the finish chute, all that cheering is for you. They’re cheering louder because they know what it took. They know how challenging your race was. They admire your determination to finish, even when it takes you twice as long. It’s quite an amazing thing to see. In one race, where I was the last runner, the volunteers joined me. As I passed through the last couple of traffic crossings, the volunteers saw me safely across the street, then ran the last bit of the race with me. Cheering me on the whole way.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, being in the back of the pack has some pitfalls…but it also has some AMAZING benefits! So you, or someone you know, admits to being a “back of the pack” runner…tell them how awesome it is!