If you’re a marathoner, you’ve probably heard the words “you’re almost there” at least a hundred million times during your training and before crossing the finish line. For some (a rare few), these words provide comfort and relief but the vast majority of us can only hear these words with a mix of frustration and a dire need to rip off the head of the all to eager informant.
I can clearly remember a time during the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon when I was an inch away from the cut off point. I was the mentor at the time helping a participant during her first marathon and a coach comes along to help us. She spots us in danger of being swept and jumps at the chance of helping us. Needless to say, we already had a game plan but she felt it was her duty to add a few cents anyway. Her constant blabber of being swept, not getting a medal, and “you’re nearly there” was a huge drain to me and the participant. Almost to the point where we considered shoving her off the highway overpass we were crossing and running away as fast as we could. We had to keep our love for her steadfast in our mind so that we didn’t do anything rash.
As a coach, I’m often tempted to encourage our participants as I see them struggling. I can see the questions form in their heads: how many more miles? how much farther? will this ever end? And I want to answer them all with “you’re almost there, keep going” but my own hatred of these phrases stops me.
Reality is: you’re not almost there. The finish line isn’t around the corner. Hearing that you only have a few miles left isn’t comforting by any stretch of the imagination. When your body hurts and you’re feeling tired and defeated, the last thing you want to hear is that you still have to keep going. How can that be comforting? And please don’t smile at us. You’re already finished. Of course you’re smiling. We see the medal around your neck as you casually munch on your post race goodies. We’re dying of hunger and we wish for the same peace of mind you’re experiencing yet we still have a few more miles to go. Don’t smile back mid bite and say it’s around the corner because it’s not. If we can’t physically touch it and we’re not there, it’s nowhere close. Shove off before you become a victim of our blind rage.
In closing, think twice during race day or at a training. Are your words helpful or merely an inconvenience? Instead of saying, you’re nearly there how about telling us we’re doing great or just smiling and leaving us alone. We won’t consider it rude, trust me. Instead you’ll be doing yourself a favor and preventing serious bodily harm and a few arrests.