Celebrating the Finish Line

As I offered the blow-by-blow of my race day at the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon, eventually I got around to describing the finish line which gratefully came after a final 500 feet of mud and quick turns.

“The high school kid wanted to hand me my medal,” I said. “I made him put it around my neck.”

“That sounds like you,” my friend Nate replied.

“Mean and bossy?” I asked.

“You like the experience,” Nate said.

He’s right. There’s something I find extraordinarily special about a finish line, particularly at a distance event. It’s the celebration of the end of a journey both literally and figuratively. Each race is an opportunity to learn something new about myself. It’s another chance to see what happens what I show up. Sometimes I’m racing with a clear head. Sometimes I’m racing with a broken heart. Sometimes the race feels like graduation day. Sometimes it feels like a final exam and I’m not sure if I’ve studied the right material. I never take a finish line for granted. (Hell, I never take starting line for granted, either, but that’s another topic for another day.) Crossing that finish line means I battled through pain and gremlins. Crossing that finish line means I’m stronger and wiser. And for just a brief moment, I’m able to ask for what I really want — a crowning glory moment where someone places a medal around my neck. It’s just a symbol, but it’s an important one to me.

After the finisher’s medal was placed triumphantly around my neck, the next phase of important symbolism began for me — the celebration.

I’m a big believer in celebrating, though true confession time — I’m not the best at practicing celebration. But I know that celebrating is crucial. Celebrating seemingly small wins is as important as whooping it up over the big-time accomplishments. There’s an entire body of research on this one. So taking some time to enjoy my moment of jubilation is critical to creating momentum and setting myself up for future success. And, oh yeah, why would I not want to revel in my joy if only for a few hours?

Immediately past the finish line, I found my parents, smiling and soggy after watching another one of my races. The weather dampened our time at the post-race party, but I accounted the entire days events for them in between dancing to some of my favorite Lowest of the Low songs preformed by the band Strictly Hip.

Reunited with my cell phone back at my car, I had a text from my friend Jude. She was at the finish line but missed me by about five minutes. Damn! But, she asked, was I still interested in pancakes? (For the record, if I am ever NOT interested in pancakes, get me to an emergency room as quickly as possible.) We met in the Village of Lewiston and I downed a glorious stack of pancakes as Jude and I celebrated not just my finish but our friendship.

Later that night, I met friends Belinda and Mike out for craft beer at the Woodcock Brothers Brewery along with wood-grilled pizza and a decadent order of poutine. We toasted my finish, talked running and laughed a lot.

My final act of celebration came the next day when I decided to buy myself flowers. All small, simple acts. All things which made the end of this particular journey incredibly special and meaningful. All experiences which not only brought me joy in the moment, but which set me up beautifully for my next adventure.

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