How To Overcome The Fear of Being the Slowest

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And there you are. Toeing the line just moments before the gun goes of. Anxious and full of doubt. Have I trained enough? Am I ready to finish this one? And if I finish, am I going to be the slowest?

Let’s face it, nobody wants to be last in anything. But it’s a matter of fact that only one runner can come in first and there has to be one that comes in last.

So if you are a beginning runner preparing for your first race or you are just a recreational runner taking things slowly, this post is for you.

Successful Goal Setting

I write about goals and how to set them often enough on this blog. The reason is simple: Having a good goal in place that is achievable is crucial for your future running career.

If you fear of being the slowest in your next race, maybe you set yourself a goal that is overly ambitious.

Let me give you an example. If you’re a beginner and haven’t done any races at all, maybe you shouldn’t start with a marathon. If someone signed you up to a marathon, just tell them that you won’t do it!

Especially in the beginning having a realistic goal is very important. If you fail by a lot this can kill your running enthusiasm for good with all the benefits you’ll then miss.

Set a goal that needs effort to achieve but is possible within the constraints of your lifestyle and your current level.

Check out this post if you need help setting a goal:

How to Set Your Next Running Goal

Every Runner Wins

I hope the title got you prepared enough for some pretty cliché type of quote here:

Even if you finish last, you’re still faster than anyone sitting on the couch!

You probably read this one before and can’t take it anymore. But it is so true! Obviously!

But why do I mention this one here?

Because it is important to also celebrate and always bear in mind the little achievements. Also small achievements are achievements (another one for the cliché section 🙂

Just to give you an idea with some numbers. In 2017 there were around 56 million runners in the United States. That’s around 17% of the population. So even when finishing last, chances are you’re in the top fifth of fastest runners in your country!

Think Positive

Positivity is a very important thing in almost all aspects of life. That doesn’t mean that you should sugarcoat everything and every failure. But even if all goes wrong, at least you can learn something. And that is a good thing!

So when it comes to running, think what positive you can get out of a failure. If in fact you finish last in a race, chances are that you did something wrong. And if so it’s a matter of attitude what you make of this situation.

And that is what I mean with positivity, it’s about your attitude. Do you fall in self-pity and are depressed, or are you willing to reflect upon what happened, learn from it, make it better and come back stronger.

I strongly believe that there is at least a tiny positive thing even in a situation that looks all bad in the beginning. And sometimes that positive thing isn’t visible at first, but the more you reflect and dig deep into the causes of a certain situation, the higher the chance you find at least one thing you can note in the positive column.

Mental Preparation

Being mentally prepared for failure (whatever that means for you) sums up the things mentioned above. This is in my opinion the best tactic to deal with the fear of failure and there are several options how you can do that.


Hope for the best but expect the worst.

As already described having a positive mindset helps you a lot with dealing with the fear of being slowest. Of course you should hope that on race day you can tap into your full potential and achieve every goal you set yourself. And you always should have that hope. After all it’s a great source of motivation.

But in parallel you should also expect all the things that could possibly go wrong. If you deal with them beforehand, it can take your fear and don’t crush you that hard in case they occur.


Visualization is a very popular technique for mental training in sports. Basically it’s pretty simple. Close your eyes, relax and imagine a situation as vividly as possible. Not only try to visualize what you see but also what you feel and hear.

To take yourself the pre-race anxiety, try to figure out all the different outcomes that are possible. And then try to regularly visualize all of them.

The day you then stand on the starting line ready to race, you’ll feel well prepared for whatever happens. No frustrations at all.

Set Your Priorities Straight

If surviving doesn’t depend on your running capabilities, and in the 21st century that is the case for almost every human being, running shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life.

Always think about what really counts in life. I hope that family and friends as well as your health are on the top of your priority list. So if something doesn’t work out in your hobby, always remember and be grateful for the good things in life that are important to you.

I call that “mental fallback”. When I dropped out of a race for the first time this summer, I arrived back in the valley and my friends were standing there applauding to me. And this after my first running related failure. That’s the best thing to think about when things aren’t working out: That you have someone waiting for you that value you whether you come in first or last.

So that’s my piece of advice for you to deal with the fear of being slowest. Let me know in the comments if this was helpful to you or if you have other strategies.

Happy running,

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