The Game of Life

XXXIII - Just Missing Out

Published about 2 months ago • 8 min read

XXXIII - Just Missing Out

Grand Rising @Reader

Today, we travel back to my 11 year old self.

11 years old was a good age, being the top dog of primary school.

But it was hanging over you that you were about to be bottom of the pile as you moved into secondary school.

Unfortunately for me, I was the only one going to the secondary school my parents had chosen, so I was going in alone.

Nevertheless, I have good memories of my final year.

I remember competing in football games, playing chess tournaments, hosting Pokemon battles, going on trips - it was a good ride.

One day, our headmaster got all of us from year 5 & 6 to run around the field... ten times.

I can't remember the exact size of this field, but what I do remember is that once I was looking for Hettie and was told she was in the top left corner, and it felt like a mission to get up there at that age.

Nevertheless, this task was handed to us - which had never been handed to us before...

We didn't know why, but we cracked on.

One lap, two laps, three...

Some started to drop, and it got quite competitive for a group of us towards the end.

After we finished, we were exhausted, but we found out why we were sent out on this run.

There was a district race happening, with the chances of moving on up from district to county, regional, and even national.

I was excited.

My performance meant I was on the team.

Step 1/5 - Local race - COMPLETE

A fair few of us went to the district event.

I remember thinking it would be busier, and it almost seemed easier than the 10 laps around our field.

Props to the headmaster, he knew what he was doing.

Before we knew it, there was a bunch of us going to the county race.

Step 2/5 - District race - COMPLETE

Things were starting to hot up, and the seriousness kicked in as we went on the bus to the county race.

This one was busier, and we were starting to feel the pressure. We were only a small primary school from a village.

Having said that, again, this one was okay... for a select few of us.

Three of us would advance to the next stage.

Myself, Will & Fergus.

The rest had missed out, and now it felt like we were competing in the big leagues.

Stage 3/5 - Country Race - COMPLETE

I would say we started to get more personalised training, but in truth, myself, Will & Fergus were sent out to the field to run lap after lap after lap while others stayed in class.

As an 11 year old, there wasn't much more a teacher could prep you to do.

But one message he did drill into us, was to pace ourselves.

It was a marathon (well, no - but it felt like it), not a sprint.

We were also the talk of the school.

Being brought up in the morning assembly and clapped for, I had never felt more "famous" than before that moment.

The Regional race was here.

There were about 100 people competing, and our headmaster informed us that for our race only the top 12 from our race would advanced to the national race.

This was it, crunch time.

We had a sense of pride, and we set out to do our school proud.

Oh boy, this one was tough.

Whereas in the previous races I had been surrounded by people for the majority of it, I was alone for a lot in this race.

The gap was getting bigger in skill level, and you could feel it.

I knew I was near the front, but how far near the front, I didn't know.

Will & Fergus were ahead, and surely they were heading to the nationals in the top 12.

The finish line was getting closer, and I kicked in my area of expertise - a strong finish.

Taking over, one.. two.. three.. *arghhhhh*, I must be agonisingly close to the top 12.

The final corner was here, and the cheering was loud.

There was a scramble ahead of me, and I wasn't catching the person in front.

I was in fates hand, I'd done all I could.

I crossed the finish line to loud applause, but I knew instantly I had missed out.

The lady greeted me with a smile but hesitant speech... "I'm afraid you finished 13th!"

Stage 4/5 - Regional Race - FAILED

I wasn't too heartbroken.

Fergus was clearly our best runner and Will often finished ahead of me in the laps and previous race.

I felt like I might have done better earlier on, but there wasn't too much to fret about.

With some reflection, I brought up the excuse to my dad that "I wouldn't want to go in at 12th anyway, I'd finish last in the national race"

My dad quickly snapped this attitude out of me.

So, I had just missed out.

I was no longer the talk of the school, as Will & Fergus took that title.

As weeks passed by, my two friends were coming up to the national race, training hard.

I was back in class, looking out on the field begrudgingly.

Of course, our windows looked right out onto it in the year 6 classroom.

This was it, the big one for them, and I wished them well.

And then, I was called into the office by my headmaster.

Now, I wasn't thinking at all about the race.

I had been called into the headmasters office before, for all the wrong reasons, so I was a little concerned.

But I didn't know why this time... I normally did.

I sat down.

"So Thomas, how would you feel about running in the national race next week?"


My lack of response and confusion meant the headmaster continued nonetheless.

"The person who finished 12th in the last race has dropped out, and they've awarded the spot to you now"

I couldn't believe it.

I was back in.

Of course I would race, but my mind had been out of race mode for weeks now.

I had just missed out... but had I?

Step 5 was back on.

Myself, Will & Fergus were on our way.

I wasn't comfortable.

I didn't feel like I deserved to be here, and hadn't been running much.

Our pep talk was simple to each other.

"Don't be the one who finishes last"

On the start line, I felt like an amateur among professionals.

It was a tight starting line and with several hundred children scrapping over being at the front, I settled from being in the third line back slotting nicely into the middle of the pile with Will & Fergus beside me.

The announcer was there:

"Right. The track is simple enough to follow. But just incase, I am sending out a hare"

He pointed to a young adult (who seemed like a giant) next to him.

"You will follow him if you are at the front. And none of you will beat him. If you do, I'll supply you a lifetime of mars bars."

I nudged Fergus, giving him a smile of encouragement. Will chuckled and joined in, but Fergus laughed it off.

After a couple of simple instructions we were getting ready to go.

All our families were there, and Will (who was actually in year 5) had his big sister Lizzie (in my year) filming the start.

We prepped ourselves, and in the middle of hundreds of children packed like sardines, chaos erupted at the start.

I almost fell over instantly as someone kicked my leg, and as I looked over I saw a small pile up to my left.

I had already lost Fergus. Ah well, I hope he does well.

Only 50 metres in, Will had remained slightly behind on my left and I heard a noise.

He was clattered by an elbow of someone trying to get past and I can vividly remember to this day the look of disappointment as he stopped abruptly.

Before I had a chance to shout his name, he had run off to the left, in search of his family.

I turned back ahead, warding off some other person trying to windmill their way through.

After a bit of back and forth, I shoved him off me, and he backed off.

The race had started to widen a bit and I found myself among a pack of 10-15 runners.

I didn't know where I was, but it was near the back I assumed.

The position didn't matter much, I just wanted to finish and not be stone cold last.

Quite early in the race I remember looking right to see the hare powering through a field, with first place about 50 metres behind him.

I looked ahead and the runner next to me spoke my thoughts out loud "How far back are we??"

I wasn't having this.

It was a rough start, but I needed to crack on.

As I picked up my pace another gear, I heard my name from behind me.

"Fergus? What are you doing here???"

"The start was terrible..."

"I know, Will dropped out immediately"

"I saw..." said Fergus.

"Go on" I said, and pointed forward with a nod.

"Good luck" he called as he set out forward.

He was in his groove now.

And I was going to get into mine.

That race was one of the hardest things I had done to that date.

Out of 300 + racers, I came in 160th.

I was very happy, considering I didn't even qualify.

Fergus? He came 67th.

Boy, he must have made up some ground.

Stage 5/5 - National Race - COMPLETE

Now, thank you for sticking with me.

That was a long story, but why tell it?

Because even though I had just missed out on the regional qualification, fate saw it that I compete in the national level.

I left with a sense of pride, after not wanting to even be there.

I shouldn't have been there, but I was.

I was exactly where I needed to be.

Not to mention, being back in the talk of the school again... a nice brucey bonus.

I was no Fergus though...

But that didn't matter.

The race I was never meant to be in saw my level of competitiveness rise and stay with me to this day.

As I went to secondary school I joined more sports, tried out new things and always looked to perform to the best of my ability.

And to win.

The race I was never meant to be in taught me that I could play in the big boy leagues.

The race I was never meant to be in instilled a level of confidence I would have never got otherwise.

The race I was never meant to be in paved my way for athletic success throughout my teens.

Just missing out wont happen in sports alone.

It will happen in all avenues of life.

A close friend of mine, who is like a big brother to me had a similar experience.

There was a work trip to Texas, and they were taking a 10 man team.

My friend, Matt, was sitting pretty as the 11th spot reserve.

And you guessed it, someone dropped out, meaning he was now going to Texas.

So what did he decide to do?

*Why not, I'll set my dating app to Texas, see what happens*

And then he got a match.

And then he got close with her.

And the girl he met, who had promised never to get into a long distance relationship again, only found out he was English when they spoke on the phone.

But it was okay, Matt had the work trip, and he was on his way over.

It was meant to be.

He found his wife.

And it meant I got a quality two week road trip around Texas for the wedding.

Thank you brother.

It was a pleasure being your groomsman.

Sometimes we will miss out, and we will stay missing out.

But I don't fret over that anymore.

Not ever since I was in a race I was never meant to be in.

I'm exactly where I need to be at all times, because if I am meant to be somewhere else, the world will put me in it.

We may not understand the reason there and then, but it will become clear.

Right now Reader, whether it feels like it or not, you are where you're meant to be.

The Game of Life

Thomas Haynes

Former NPC turned entrepreneur. Join hundreds of readers where each newsletter is a quest towards conquering personal growth, business success, and finding purpose in every moment.

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