Many sports end when time expires. Football, basketball, and soccer work this way. Get ahead and stay ahead before the clock runs out is standard operating procedure.
Running doesn't work that way. Everyone must cover a predetermined distance. No one can do it for you. Win or lose, everyone must finish.
You can't complete a race without covering the distance. Anyone who doesn't finish gets assigned the inordinately unsatisfying 'DNF'. This simply means 'did not finish'.
I've never been a fan of unfinished business. I am not a fan of loose ends. I like having closure. Mercifully, I've never experienced a 'DNF'.
I was not gifted with exceptional speed. I will never give any Kenyans a run for their money at any race. But, speed is not the only gift one can have.
I will suffer. I will bleed. I will do anything to finish.
Finishing no matter what was the first lesson I learned as a runner. Slow, fast, plodding, or flying, finish the job. Sooner or later, you start to believe you can finish anything and endure anything.
Starting isn't easy, but it's a heck of a lot easier than finishing. When you start, you're usually well rested, well hydrated, and ready to go. No one feels terribly spry finishing.
Finishing demands fatigue. It demands discomfort, if not pain. Finishing demands that you endure.
There have been numerous races in which the fleeting thought of not finishing has crystallized. It's OK. You've worked so hard. You don't have to finish. There's nothing at stake here.
But, everything is at stake. These insidious voices with their messages of capitulation can lead you to your doom like a siren. Embrace this soothing voice and you inevitably will quit. You won't finish.
Like anything else, not finishing can become a habit. Suddenly, small bumps in the road become reasons to rationalize bailing out. Quitting becomes the norm.
So, I grimace and tell these voices to fuck off. I tell them that quitting isn't my bag. Quitting eventually leads to not starting.
I don't have to finish, but the emptiness of not finishing haunts. Finishing elicits a blinding, ecstatic rush of affirmation. I can fight. I can endure. I can finish. I can do anything.
I run because I must finish....