Face at the finish line

A blog buddy had a funny post about his frustrations with those mid packers who celebrate wildly when crossing the finish line while, even though he finishes much closer to the front, he looks serious, angry, even in pain when he finishes. A cruel irony, indeed.

I didn’t want to fill up his comments with all of my thoughts on it, so, since I’m injured and have no life of my own at the moment, I’m going to break with my own traditions and expand on the post (with apologies).

As runners, we all have a little running coach inside our heads. I think my “race face” and the reaction I have at the finish line is all dependent on the in race conversation I have had with that coach. Here are some examples:

The “you can do it” conversation.

I usually have this conversation with myself during first time race distances or different types of races (cross country, hilly courses) and usually comes when I a running next to or just behind someone who is obviously in worse shape than me. The whole thing goes something like.. “C’mon fatboy… If gramma can do it, you can do it”. The finish line face here depends on whether I actually beat gramma or not…

The “at least you’re not THAT guy” conversation.

You know… the one you pass as he barfs into a trashcan or flies into a screaming pile of muscle cramps at mile 13? The finish line face is usually an evil grin…

The “stick with it” conversation.

I get this one when I have a problem that is annoying, but not race or life threatening. Like when I got blisters at the 7 mile point of a half marathon. You know there will be no PR this day, so it’s a gut check. Will you give up? Hell no… You are a runner. This one actually usually makes me smile at the finish line.

The “outtofastdumbass” conversation.

You ran your first mile (of a half marathon) in WHAT???!! Yewidiot… The finish line face here is disgust… complete with head shake, verbal self abuse, finish chute pouting and a stomp back to the car…

The “Hey Gertrude! The gardening team called… They want their skirt back” conversation.

You ran your first mile (of a 5K) HOW SLOW???!! YewIDIOT… The finish line face here either mimics the one above or the one below.

The “do NOT throw up on my shoes” conversation.

This one is either because you thought the extra large, extra spicy, chorizo and jalapeno burrito was a better way to carbo load so you experimented THE NIGHT BEFORE THE MARATHON and there is now a thunderstorm in your transverse colon and it wants OUT … one way or the other…


You ran an 9 minute first mile in your 5k (sub 20 goal) because you had your head firmly planted… well… you know… so you try to make up for it by running the last two in sub 5 minute pace (even though you’ve never run ONE sub 5…). The net effect takes you from a runner’s high to a running hurl. Usually as the flashbulbs are popping AT the finish line…

The “it’s not the course designer’s fault you are out of shape” conversation.

Some days we just seem to look for any weak excuse for poor performance. Bad shoes, bad socks, bad course design, Gatorade was the wrong flavor… and so on. Even though my race is my responsibility, my finish line face is usually a “hang the race director” glare.

The “wow… not bad… not great… but not bad…” conversation.

Your watch says you are slow. The splits are off. You know the course has been certified. But SOMETHING is just not right. Is it inside? Outside? Planets not aligning? Then you see the clock at the finish and realize it’s not as bad as you think. The finish line look is a mix of “ok… I’ll take that” and “ahh… crap… I still had some gas left in the tank…”.

The “you suck” conversation.

We have all had these. Weeks to months of preparation all fall apart when the gun goes off. This is the hard, cold reality of running. Sometimes it just hurts. You had to walk. You cramped up. You got sick. You played porta potty golf. You didn’t train right and tried to deny your way through it. Even though it could be environmental, physical or emotional, the bottom line is that running is a personal, individual sport. It’s hard for me NOT to be hard on myself, especially if a race goes badly. Regardless of the reason. It’s my fault. This is a finish line face you don’t want to see…

The “you did it” conversation.

This is my favorite finish line face. When I beat the odds. When I run a PR. When I achieve a goal. This smile is reserved for marathons, major time or mileage goals, or that first run back after an injury. It can be an outside smile, complete with hugs and much whooping. But not always. But you can see it in people’s faces. Maybe it’s tears. Maybe it’s a head shake or a lost look in the eyes. I have it to some degree every time I run. The whole conversation goes “you did it. You made yourself better today”.

What does your race face look like? Do you smile when you cross the line? You should…


One Response to Face at the finish line

  1. Hey…wow, I didn’t even know you wrote a whole post about my running dilemma. I actually wrote a sequel after I did a little “research”. I think you make very nice points about the myriad of emotions that we can have when we cross the finish line, depending on what we perceived personally that day. I just get frustrated when I see runners in a local 10K from mid-packers who are running the race like it’s a guided tour of the park, not even pushing themselves even at the end, and then celebrate by raising their hands like it’s the end of a marathon. C’mon, it’s a local race, that is run every other month, on the same course. I personally just don’t see it. But I guess that’s why I’m different. Anyway, sorry about the rant. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Later.


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