post written by: Marc Chernoff

How To Win a Race in Last Place


 Win a Race in Last Place

This guest post was written by Alex Fayle, author of Someday Syndrome.

When I was seven years old, I won a foot race in last place.

An Outsider

Due to foul play at other schools, the local school district enacts a mandatory policy during recess hours that segregates the schoolyard based on gender.  Boys and girls are no longer allowed to partake in activities together.  Given that my friends are almost all girls, I feel lost.  I’m not rough and tough enough to feel comfortable with the boys, and yet my gender excludes me from hanging with my friends, the girls.

So I learn to be an outsider.  I have a couple acquaintances in both camps, but I’m not actively a part of either, at least not anymore.  And because I’m an outsider, I quickly become the object of teasing.  Every tribe picks a walking, talking target of ridicule and I fall easily into this role.

With Oneself

Although the words hurt, I find strength from within to push forward, to stay who I am.  Because my parents instilled love and patience in my mind from the time I was born.  They taught me that the only valid competition is with oneself.  So I don’t mind being me.  I just wish everyone else would learn to accept me as I am.

To add to my exclusion, I’m fairly clumsy and athletically awkward.  I can’t pull my limbs together in a coordinated manner to lift myself over the high-jump bar, to propel my body through the air for the triple-jump, or to pump my legs fast enough along the race track.

I’m never in last place, but because of my outsider status, the majority of the students spew words of ridicule at me anyways.  The other outsiders – the poor, malnourished students who wear tattered clothes to school, or the ones with physical disabilities – they get verbally harassed too.  And although they never say a word about it, I can see the pain and frustration in their eyes.  It hurts them just as much, if not more, than it hurts me.

The First Time

As the teachers group the boys together for the weekly 100 yard dash, I decide it’s time for an outsider to win for once.

In the eyes of my classmates, I’m already the loser.  Regardless of whether I come in first place or last, they will mock me.  I realize I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  So I purposely run slow and let everyone pass me, even the poor boy whose ribs show through his skin, whose track and field clothes are the same as his day-to-day clothes… the one whose always in last place.

From my position just behind him, I see the teachers cheering him on.  Then suddenly, and surprisingly, some of the students join in.  I make an effort to seem like I’m pushing myself while actually falling back more and more.  And before long, all the students are cheering him on.  “You got it!” they chant.  “You’re almost there!”

The boy crosses the finish line and looks back at me.  He has a smile on his face stretching from one end of the schoolyard to the other.  It’s the first time he’s not in last place.

I pant across the finish line and receive the usual jeers, but I smile too.  Because today I learned how to win in a way many of my classmates will never understand.

I may have finished in last place.

But I won the race.

Alex Fayle, of Someday Syndrome, is a former procrastinator who uses his visionary ability to uncover hidden patterns and help you break the procrastination obstacle so that you can finally find freedom and start living the life you desire.

Photo by: Lekke

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27 Comments

  • Wow… what can I say? That was a beautiful story!

  • Aww, that was so sweet! We should all try and do things like that more often, I bet it feels awesome.
    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story :)

  • Wow. Brings a tear to your eye.

  • Reading the post, brought back some of my childhood memories….

    Yes.. Sometimes, in the eyes of others, it may seem like we lost. Only we know what we got out of the experience.

  • Actually I can’t get past the disturbing part of the story - that there are still children starving in America and teachers would see it but not intervene.

  • Alex, that was a beautiful story. What a lovely way to view the world.

    I remember telling my son that it’s not all about winning, it’s about having fun. Whoever has the most fun wins. One day he was racing with another kid who just blew by him to the finish line, chanting, “I’m winning!” My son’s reply was, “No, I’m winning because I’m having more fun!”

    :)

  • I love this post! The last two lines are amazing. Thanks for writing this… it was truly inspiring!

  • @Amber

    “malnourished” does not necessarily mean “starving” - it may also refer to the “McDonalds diet”, resulting in obese kids, which is not in any way better than an under-fed kid, IMHO

  • @Vi, Rosa & Andy
    Glad you enjoyed the story - I’m all about pulling nuggets of learning from the past. It’s makes for some great pattern recognizing in the present.

    @Shamelle
    I’ve brought this sort of attitude with me to my business. I don’t need to be the best in the field (in terms of fame and/or money) - my goal is to help others feel like they’ve won and that makes me feel like the biggest winner.

    @Amber
    This was back in the mid70s and I’m certain the teachers knew who wasn’t getting the same quality of life that most of the privileged mostly-white upper-middle class families provided to the majority of students, but all too often teachers can only help in limited ways (even more so 30 years ago, I’m sure).

  • What a beautiful thing to do Alex! I think it’s wonderful that you were comfortable enough with yourself as a person that you could do that. Most kids are so concerned with gaining the approval of their peers that such a generous act would be inconceivable. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wow… lovely story !! I loved it !! :)
    and as I believe, sometimes beautiful things like this story can bring tears to one’s eyes…!!

  • Alex, what a incredibly compelling story! I couldn’t figure out where it was going and the ending was quite a surprise. Thanks for sharing this. Beautiful!

  • @Lisis
    I love the attitude you’ve taught your son. Far too often parents focus on winning. And I love that you didn’t use the cliche about “it’s about participating” blah blah blah - it’s about FUN!

    @Positively Present
    Hey! Good to see you here too! Glad you enjoyed it. See you back at Someday Syndrome!

    @Martin
    As I said to Amber, this was the early 70s and processed food was seen as the cheap alternative to fresh food for families that didn’t have much…

    @Jonathan
    Oh, don’t get me wrong - I was a total approval seeker and still am in many ways, but I never tried to change. I was comfortable with who I was. I just wanted everyone to accept me without changing - but yeah, I spent many years insecure as a result. And yet deep down I had a strong confidence that came out at odd moments like this one.

    @Abhishek
    I’m glad the story touched you.

    @Stephen
    Surprise endings are good! yay!;)

  • Excellent story. + You did a really beautiful thing that day that surely made the other “outsider” happy, and that included everyone who cheered him on. This too, brought a smile to my face. Thanks for sharing Alex! :)

  • It’s amazing how you can see this from such a different perspective and how your positive impact on another person had a positive impact on you. Great post.

  • Alex, this is a great story and very well written.
    I think it is these types of stories and messages that should be read by parents and teachers to children and discussed with them.

  • Very profound!

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  • Great story Alex and so well written.

    I was a variation on this story, as I always tried to be the first one to read a paper or do the assignment or solve the math problem. I would get it wrong or have heard the directions wrong and would get praise for volunteering, but give the class another opportunity to make corrections to their work - I learned this because my brother and sister had so much trouble reading in school and spelling but if they got a second chance and an example they could usually cut the mustard and get the good grade…
    I got the praise for my enthusiasm and I successfully covered my dyscalcula and no one called me a liar about reading Dr. Zhivago at age 5 or the whole set of encyclopedias….”retard” I could live with because I knew I wasn’t.
    You tell the story much better and with style
    Thank you.

  • Hi Alex, thanks for sharing your story with us. It really touches me.
    I agree with you. Winning is not just about taking the first place. It is also about how we affect other’s lives.

  • Cool story.

  • What a great story and great blog post title!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed your story and I was reminded that it parallels all of our lives in a way.Sometimes we are so caught up in trying/striving to win that we lose sight of the most important things.Like an unselfish gift with no expectation of reward.Love in it’s purest form.Thank you!

  • This is a great story. This kind of generosity and unselfishness is the corner stone to a good life, spiritually and emotionally. Making others happy with this spirit is the quickest way to be happy, oneself. Very well done.

  • Ever single Post on this site is great..
    It makes me feel proud to be a human and happier to see that people like you exist. Every single post showed how to be better , more loving caring. More human! Thnks a lot. Love this site.

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