“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
“We are judged by what we finish, not by what we start.”
The point of these statements is not to give up after a slow start or stumble. Keep fighting, keep working, and continue to make progress. There is something to that – it is important to finish strong.
When your favorite team wins or loses in the last minute, invariably the focus goes to the last possession, the last at bat. But what happened earlier had just as much effect on the outcome. When sprinters and hurdlers run, they don’t look at distance as much as strides. Usain Bolt, for example, took 41 strides in Berlin, 2009 – and every one was critical to the world record he set. One missed step, one stride off, and he doesn’t set the record. Heck, he might not even have won the race!
I ran a PR this week. As the Alberta Clipper (or Polar Vortex or whatever they are calling it now) swept across the country and wind chills dropped, friends of mine were still out running in the nasty stuff. I, however, was in a 68 degree cave doing a 5k. This was the Groundhog Run, which holds a place in my heart. My first 10k was here in 2017; I missed it last year due to unavoidable circumstances. Not this year; I was there with The Boy and 3 close friends, ready to run.
I didn’t warm up much at all, but felt good out of the gate. The stride was working, I felt comfortable, and all was working well. I ran the last mile neck and neck with a guy around my age, and we both sprinted the last tenth to the line. I crossed first, we congratulated each other, and I waited for the rest of my group. I saw the time when I crossed and knew I had a PR, but wasn’t sure exactly what the final was. After we got everyone gathered I went over and got my results. There was the number: 22:00.01.
Now, running is largely a race against yourself and your previous runs. I didn’t know the guy next to me at the finish line, and I wouldn’t recognize him if he walked up to me today. We pushed each other, but I was racing against my own history. That time was 13 seconds better than my previous best, and if you had told me in 2016 or 2017 that I would run a 22, I would have laughed at you.
So how the hell was I feeling disappointed??
Big Round Numbers
Let’s be real; I was not really disappointed. I’m proud as hell, in fact. I worked hard, set a personal record, and finished 79th out of 2331 – but the number does nag at me a little. I remember running my first sub-30 minute 5k. My first sub-25 was a big deal. We can get obsessed with those big round numbers; this could have easily been a sub-22.
When I realized what my time was, I of course started running through the finish to figure where I could have shaved a click. Now, it’s certainly possible that I might have saved some time there – but why do we review the end so intensely and not think about earlier on? The middle is pretty important too, you know? I stumbled at one point around the 2 mile mark. I could have pushed my pace earlier. There were multiple places where I could have shaved a second or two. That’s true of any race.
What’s Your Point?
Our successes (and failures) don’t come from the last point on the journey. When you climb a wall, it’s because of all the work you did to that point. It’s the pullups and the core work for the last few months that get you over that wall, not just your run up.
The ability to persevere, to keep fighting and working, is critical to your success. At some point you will hit obstacles; that’s how life works. When you review your path and reset goals, you need to look at the whole path – not just the last drive.
If you finished, but aren’t happy with your outcome, take a look at how you got there. Did you do every challenge, complete every task down the line? If the answer is yes, you did what you could and you should stand proud. Set your new goal, keep pushing and working, and you will continue to improve.
However, if you took shortcuts here and there, decided that it was “good enough” or “far enough”, and didn’t put in the work? Listen, you should still be proud that you finished. There is absolutely value in that! Any disappointment you have for not reaching a goal time or outcome, though, isn’t because of the weather or what someone else did or didn’t do. You have to own the good and the bad!
Progress, not perfection, is our goal every day. You can’t always control what happens – but you can control how you respond to it. Your willingness to own your total journey – the beginning, middle, and end – gives you the power to change it, put in ALL the work, and raise your bar.