Shout From the Stands: The Last Race

by SwimSwam 5

November 24th, 2018 Lifestyle

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Robert ‘Berto’ Barrett, a former University of Denver swimmer. 

Here it is. The last race of your career. Everything you have done for the past ten to twenty years culminates in this last, glorious display of your talents. Less than two minutes or so separate you from your life as a “swammer” or a “normal college student.” Certainly you’ll hit a best time, right? Though, maybe, that is not what you should be focused on.

The last race is epic don’t get me wrong. I have seen swimmers have out-of-their-minds, lights-out, crushing-their-personal-best type swims. I have also seen swimmers add three second on a last race, get disqualified, or, more commonly, have a decent swim. That is where I fell in.

My last race, a 200 breaststroke at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships, I added about a half a second. My best time would have won the race, however, I settled nicely into third place. I pushed myself as well as my body could on the last day of conference championships, and the result was all it could give me. Two things were immediately relevant to me as I hit the wall: 1.) I was done swimming and 2.) I was okay with my last race.

So much pressure is put on the “last” thing we do. Whether it is saying goodbye to co-workers when leaving a job, or playing in your last game. We want what we do to be meaningful and have a lasting impact on those to come after us. The important thing to remember is; your legacy or career is not dependent on how well you perform in your last competition.

By the time you step on deck at your last meet, your legacy has already been all but cemented. Whether you were the hardest working in the pool, or simply made your teammates laugh during the difficult sets, people will remember you for your ENTIRE body of work.

So, relax, enjoy it, and take it all in. The last race is a special time indeed, don’t get me wrong. You have earned this moment. The work you have put in over the past decade or two speaks for itself. Again, people will remember what kind of swimmer you were, not how well you performed in your last race. No pressure and good luck to you, realize, this is your last race of your career. Please, go out there and have some fun.

About Robert Barrett

Robert “Berto” Barrett was a swimmer for Scottsdale Aquatic Club, then the University of Denver (2009-2013), where he was a team captain for his senior season.  Berto is now lives in Denver, CO and is a middle school special education teacher and athletic director at STRIVE Prep-Federal.

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I started Masters swimming because I never wanted to have a last race!


I don’t understand this mentality. Why swim if you’re just looking forward to the day you can quit? And if you enjoy swimming, why quit when you’re just getting started in life? What are you going to do to stay fit when you quit swimming? We’re lucky. Swimmers can enjoy the benefits of our sport–and competing–our whole lives. Skip the drama and keep swimming.


Having your last meet as a senior in college is a great milestone that many wish to achieve. Even most D1 swimmers have no intention to become professionals and after spending most of their lives swimming competitively, they are excited for their next adventures after they graduate. It does not mean that they “quit” swimming, it just that as they pursue other opportunities in their lives, they don’t have the time or the willingness to commit to what competitive swimming requires. I am sure that some “swammers” still prefer to swim couple of times a week as part of their workout.


It is more about leaving the professional training environment. I swam my “last” race in college. I was not a national level swimmer, but college swimming gave me the opportunity to train hard while pursuing my degree. I was proud of myself for hitting amazing times that I never thought I’d do, but I knew after college, I wouldn’t have the time or facilities to dedicate to swimming faster times. Working a 50-60 hour workweek job, I still add a bit of swimming and racing in when I can, but I just don’t have the time anymore. That’s why the last race thing was fun. Knowing whether it turns out good or bad, you worked hard and gave it everything… Read more »

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