Finishing Is Its Own Reward

“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left–in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.” – Anne Frank

Sometimes finishing is the best you can say about something you set out to do–like finishing a book you didn’t particularly care for, or a project you undertook with enthusiasm didn’t quite turn out the way you expected; maybe you were writing a killer story and the ending fell flat.

That’s how I felt at the end of my first 40-mile ultra-marathon. I finished. My time was embarrassing, I suffered the final twenty miles, and I sit writing this post feeling like a tractor-trailer ran over me.

But there must be something gained by finishing, right? If you put your blood, sweat, and tears into something there must be some reward, even if it’s knowing that you stuck it out, didn’t give up, suffered to the bitter end. I mean, if you had abandoned the project you surely wouldn’t have the same sense of accomplishment. Perhaps finishing is its own reward.

The Naked Bavarian ultra-marathon course around Blue Marsh Lake, Leesport, PA

The Naked Bavarian ultra-marathon course around Blue Marsh Lake, Leesport, PA

When I crossed the finish line late in the afternoon, dead last, I thanked the race volunteers for hanging around. I was surprised to see they kept the finishing banner erect, the clock running, and all of the equipment intact. Under the pavilion the burners fired under a grill with warm pasta, German potato pancakes and strudel. They seemed to take great joy in watching me eat. These guys were awesome! I sat chowing down and thought about the 20-mile loop course, which was scenic and beautiful. I complemented them on the great job they did with the race.

And then something unexpected happened. A young woman walked up to me and said, “We have something for you,” and handed me a white box. “You won your age group.”

When I was a young runner and my competitive genes fired on all cylinders, I always admired the “Old-timers” who came out to compete. I remember the time one of the elders came up to me at a post race party and said, “If you hang around long enough, someday you might win something.”

Where did the time go?

photo

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
This entry was posted in Health, Marathon, Running and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Finishing Is Its Own Reward

  1. Sophie33 says:

    Congrats, you did it & that is what matters & is important! Xxx

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  2. LB says:

    Jim, this brought a tear to my eye. You inspire me!
    If you ever get a free moment, check out my latest post and check out the two signs that i included in the post.

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  3. Joey says:

    Hopefully now you can look back and laugh at your sufferfest! You never gave up, that is key! You’re stronger, better and smarter because of that

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      There is no doubt I’m happy I did it. Running 40 miles is an experience I’ll always carry with me, and I know there are intangible benefits I gained. Just knowing I hung in there and didn’t quit when I didn’t think my body could bare any more pain feels good and will apply to other things I set out to do. I have to say though, Joey, when I got done the 40 miles I wondered how you could ever run 100. Good luck at Bighorn, Buddy.

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  4. Brittany says:

    You completed a 40 mile race, time doesn’t matter. That is amazing, and congratulations!!

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  5. Great post Jim. I thought of you that day when I did my meager 30k. Inspiring. 🙂

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  6. Mark Mangan says:

    Wow! Nice job! Did you finish off a couple of Guinness too?

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  7. Jim this is a wonderful post, something we can all relate to, whether a runner or a non-runner. It is having starting something, and finishing it to the end.
    This is a HUGE accomplishment, and is an inspiration. I have “thought” about attempting a “shorter” ultra, the shortest being 30 miles or 50 k’s, while I physically can still run, but have been a bit afraid.
    Thank you for sharing, not only for completing the run, but finishing top in your age group.
    ~Carl~

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      I appreciate your kind words, Carl. Maybe it will ease your mind to know that I alternated walking with running the final ten miles, something I never would have considered when I was a younger runners (like in my fifties, ha ha.) The day I overcame my obsession with finishing times, running became much more enjoyable. Admittedly, an ultra is extreme and there is no rational reason for doing one, but as a lifelong runner it was an unforgettable experience that I’ll carry with me to the end. Be well.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A wonderful story about the gift of endurance – and hanging in long enough to be a role model for the next generations 🙂

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Thanks, Carol. The young lady who presented me with the award came in second in the marathon that was run concurrently with the ultra-marathon. I congratulated her, told her that at least she had to beat other runners, and she said, yeah, but how many people your age would even try to run an ultra. I couldn’t dispute her point. I am thankful, every single day. Again, thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Another lovely story, Jim. I congratulate you for dreaming of this run, showing up, finishing, and having the kindness and humility to congratulate others. And I appreciate the wisdom of the young woman who waited for your finish and greeted you with such thoughtfulness and respect.

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        • Jim Brennan says:

          Thanks for your kind words, Carol. The race organizers were a wonderful and caring group of people, which made the race worthwhile. You share quite a bit of wisdom of your own. Thank you.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. This is awesome!!! German potato pancakes after the race? Sign me up.

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  10. Well done, Jim, finishing is great! Remember that most people couldn’t do that!

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  11. runner500 says:

    Looks like a great location, 40 miles is a long way to run, a really long way – so you should feel proud of yourself, proud of your achievement. Right now your body needs to recover and as it does you might decide to give the distance another go, or you could decide to do as British distance runner Mo Farrah did with the marathon and feel ‘that’s a bit far and I stick to shorter stuff.’ Either way, it’s a fantastic achievement – well done!

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      It’ll be a while before I try anything like that again. Or at least not until next month (only kidding.) Cycling and hiking season is upon us, so I’ll be mixing it up a bit. Bella’s ready for a long hike on the Appalachian Trail, as am I. And my boys already hooked me into a cycle to the shore. But that running bug will bite again, that I know because it’s been doing it for many decades. Thanks for the well wishes.

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  12. Hope says:

    Finishing is extraordinary, make no mistake!

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