In recreational runs where WE pay to compete, the only person who really cares who is first is the one who comes in second and maybe third. After that most just want to test themselves and have fun. Some may want to place in their age category and if not, can be happy if they put forth their best effort.
Kids in school programs do wish to do well and try at least not to be last. The kids who learn that trying your best and enjoy striving to improve, knowing they have done all they are capable of are the happiest.
Recently reading a book I rediscovered in my library reminded me of the true joy of running. Discussing the subject of truly enjoying runs , this quote in the book stood out;
"Quit comparing times and start comparing feelings. Times don't last. Feelings do."