While running a Memorial Day 5K in a nearby town, I got to thinking about life at the back of the pack. I am a new runner and a slow runner. After running in three 5Ks, I find myself in the back of the pack in the race for last place. I.e. the race to not be last. I tell my friends that I am slow; glacially slow.
I am a big fan of John “The Penguin” Bingham, a runner and motivational speaker. He is a slow runner and writes about living in the back of the pack. My favorite John Bingham quote is ““I also discovered that some of the hardest-fought battles are not at the front of the field. They are being fought in the back of the pack by those of us with nothing at stake but pride.” He hit that smack on the bull’s-eye.
I always take a good look around at the others at the back of the pack at these 5Ks. Those at the front run for the glory. They run for medals and recognition. Those at the back of the pack run for their pride. They run for their health. They run for family stricken with cancer. They run to honor others. Glory, medals and recognition are not on their minds. The back of the pack is indeed a good place to live.
As I chugged along on Memorial Day, I watched the pack of runners move farther ahead. At about two miles, I was trading places with two other middle aged men. I occasionally looked back to assure myself that I was not the last person on the course. On one of those look backs it hit me that running a 5K has a lot of similarities to weight loss journey.
I often found myself at the back of the pack during the early years of my weight loss journey. I saw life after bariatric surgery as a race to shed the most pounds in the least amount of time. As a Lapband post-op, my weight loss was glacially slow compared to RNY post-ops. For those early post-op years, I thought I was destined to be a failure at the back of the pack.
I had connected failure with living at the back of the pack. This connection was based on defining the back of the pack based on pounds and inches lost. Several years later, I understand that success is defined by a much more comprehensive set of criteria beyond the scale. Being a happier person, increasing the level of physical activity, expanding one’s life experiences, and living a healthy life are the most notable indicators of success.
It is human nature to look ahead and behind to scout our where you are. Each of us is a competitive animal to some degree. This awareness is a motivator to keep on running and heading in the right direction. The danger is when scouting becomes an obsession. You cannot control how others run races or travel their personal weight loss journeys. Looking within yourself and making positive changes is what you can do to encourage your personal success.
I began running this spring and forgot those lessons learned from living in the back of the bariatric pack. After just a few races, I realize that I put way to much importance on where I finish in terms of other people. A lesson I learned in running that is shared by weight loss journeys is that success or failure is not measured by how fast you run or how fast you lose weight compared with others. Whether the end goal is the finish line or a healthy weight and life, giving everything that you have to the effort is true success.
“I also discovered that some of the hardest-fought battles are not at the front of the field. They are being fought in the back of the pack by those of us with nothing at stake but pride.” John Bingham’s words cannot be truer. Nothing is more motivating than fighting battles at the back of the pack.