The beauty of being last



’ve never really been last at anything, and most of the time, that’s served me well. I received good grades in school, worked hard to earn a living for my family, and along the way I owned and operated a successful data processing and software company for close to 20 years. I liked the view from near the front of the line.

About a month ago I looked in the mirror and thought about an upcoming physical. I’ve been plodding around this planet more than half a century and physically, things are not quite what they should be.

I carry more weight than I’d like to. My sleep is often interrupted and spotty, and occasionally I have aches and pains that mysteriously appear as if to remind me that I am closer to the end than the beginning, but I have never been one to give up without a fight.

I saw a notice from The Maine Running Company announcing one of their new programs, Winter Warriors. That caught my attention.

I’d given up running for some time, but I missed it. No really. I missed it. I signed up for the group and told myself this would be fun. I almost believed the words. The trick would be for me not to overdo it. Time for me to take a deep breath.

We meet on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and each day this group of 30 or so hearty souls takes to the streets of Portland for a run or walk, or some combination of the two.

We have coaches from the store and each other to help us through the workout. It’s been about a month since we started and I honestly feel better, but that’s not the point.

I was nervous about my abilities and I started at the end, and most of the first night (yes, we run/walk at night) I walked. I jogged a few steps and then walked. I finished, but I was last. For some strange reason, I didn’t care. Tired, sore, and wondering what the next day would bring, I finished with a smile.

During the next few weeks, I continued with the group and I even met an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. He too is north of 50 and trying to get in shape, and now on Thursday nights we run together. Most of the time, we talk as we shuffle along the icy sidewalks and streets near the eastern prom. His children and my children are nearly the same age and we know many of the same people. We stay near the back of the group and when we’re finished we feel better having spent an hour or more outside being active.

“Three laps this week,” we agreed the other night. “Next week we’ll try for four.”

Here’s the magical part of the story. I like the view from the back.

Yes, I’ve slowed down some, but now I think I have a better view and a better understanding of the race I’ve been running for 30 years. I hope to keep running/walking well into the spring and with any kind of luck, maybe even enter a few 5k road races. But that’s not the important part.

As a teacher, I now have something else to share with my students – something else to talk about.  As a writer, these excursions outdoors have given me a chance to think about stories, plot points, and characters. I usually end each run by taking notes or dictating into my friend Mr. iPhone. I’m thrilled.

I may move ahead in pack, or move back a few places, but either way, I’ve decided, I’ll be fine.

Have I mentioned that I’m starting to think about the food I eat.  Hmm.

David Arenstam

About David Arenstam

Originally from away, but here to stay - Maine is my home and I love writing stories about the people and places from my end of the state. I am a teacher and writer and my first novel, "Homecoming: A Soldier's Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption" is available now at