Life is good at the back of the pack

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.

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  1. Tracy aka My Tiny Tank June 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Just what I needed to read before my Saturday run and my ever personal wanting to complete a 5K once again. About 10 years ago I ran a 5K just after the majority of my weight came off. It was a hard race for me but I completed it. I had met my goal.
    I am a lone runner. I’ve just recently started running again in order to assist in losing my regain. I don’t wish to run with others and I am realizing (especially after reading your blog) that it is because I am comparing myself with others and I’d much rather run by myself and feel good about my accomplishment with no one else around. It makes it easier, but I am really not learning that lesson of NOT comparing myself to others.
    I run on the treadmill. I don’t run outside. I’d like to, and maybe I’ll hit some trails where I ride my bike to ease into some public running. a little less public but a good way to ease into it.
    thanks for sharing your back of the pack concept (John Bingham) I’m now going to take a peak at the books you’ve suggested by him.
    I’ve got some work to do in getting comfortable with being publicly in the back of the pack.
    A good friend of mine ran her first 5 K today. She is someone who has never struggled with obesity but is very committed to her health. It was pouring rain. SHe still ran. I was so proud of her. I wanted her to ask me to run with her but she didn’t. I was too shy to ask to join her. But in fact she was running for herself and it was her day. I completely understand that now.
    I’m going to get up onto my treadmill today and I will completely enjoy my solitary run. I am a wife and mother and my running is something that I treasure as it means being by myself.
    I’m going to load some John Bingham onto my iPad and start to feel around in the feel of the “back of the pack”
    I’ll keep you posted.

  2. Holly from 300 Pounds Down June 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Excellent and awesome insights!! My brother told me about the pace police and how his main goal was to just stay in front of them and not be swept off the race. You are right that at the back of the pack it’s our pride at stake not the race time. I find you SO inspirational and appreciate you sharing this with those of us following in your footsteps 🙂


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