Disappointment And Running Success

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patience running thinDisappointment

Disappointment is handled by everyone differently. There are two ways of seeing it. One, as a roadblock, something that will belittle you and cause you to quit.

The second is as an opportunity to properly motivate you to adjust what went wrong and succeed ten-fold the second time.

I have been in for over ten years and what that time has taught me is you have to adapt to situations that are uncomfortable. How you handle being uncomfortable will dictate your mental state.

Racing is uncomfortable and so is taking risks and not knowing what the outcome of your training will be. It would be great if every race we ran was perfect, but that isn’t the case.

If they were, how could you ever take value in a great performance without thinking back to that race when things went completely awry and you totally missed it.

You missed 5 aid stations. You didn’t take in enough fluid and completely bombed (Oh dear Lord, I have been there). You went out too hard and it cost you dearly. What do you do? You keep going…

How you handle disappointment really is the defining factor in long-term running success. You have to have a plan and despite poor efforts along the way, if you give an inch, you could miss out on all you have worked so hard for.

The greatest achievements in life were achieved by people who did not quit when a disappointment occurred. I think of Thomas Edison..

If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.
– Thomas Edison

This is something very close to my heart.  I have tried hard to never let up in going after goals. I spent from 2008 until the 2011 California International Marathon trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials standard. It was the goal I had set after qualifying to return to the Army World Class Athlete Program at the 2007 California International Marathon.

I needed a 2.19.00 and had run 2.19.35 to earn the right to return in October of 2009. I was disappointed over and over again. 35 seconds shouldn’t be that hard to get but the marathon doesn’t work like that. This is only experience but hopefully some of what I will be writing can help.

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Caring about people and taking the time to encourage makes an enormous difference. I was fortunate to have mentors who molded me, teammates that were far better then me and a tenacity, that we all share, to endure whatever I had to deal with to go work toward my goal.

I ran three marathons in 2011 and handled disappointment in the same way. Keep trying. I was assigned to Fort Campbell 1 March 2011 and decided that despite moving on from the Army World Class Athlete Program I would continue to fight toward that 2.19.00 marathon.

I flew to Vancouver, Canada to compete in the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon in May. The elite race director, Brian Torrence, graciously gave me a two-night hotel stay and waived my fee. I was elated to have the chance to go for the time there.

I missed the target, hit 2.40:56 (after an opening half in 1.08.56 and still on 2.27 pace through 20 miles(1.53), finishing 10th. Disappointed wasn’t the word that day. I had missed the target yet again and the window for qualifying for the 2012 Trials was closing fast. My racing was not showing the work I was putting in.

I had tried qualifying prior to 2011 and the fastest time I had run leading into the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon was a 2.36.29 I ran at the 2009 California International Marathon and this was after a 1.08.33 opening half and still on 2.21 marathon pace through 20 miles (1.50.29)….

…and I had much worse marathon races then this…so this post is close to home.

You have three choices in life. Be average, be good, be great. It is your choice. Your momma didn’t make it, the preacher didn’t make it, the teacher didn’t make it…you made it. If you choose to be average that is all your ever going to be in life – Joe Newton

Choosing to quit on something you believe in is choosing to be average. A disappointing race should make you all the more driven to reach your objective.

Get pissed off if you have to but don’t dwell on it. Re-group and keep trying…keep trying…keep trying and when your sick of trying…then try harder!

I ended up running a 2.26.42 in November of 2011 to take 5th at the Monumental Indianapolis Marathon and overcome nearly 3 years of sub-par marathon efforts.

I had to make an emergency porta john stop at mile 18 while running with the leaders (talk about an in-race disappointment!).

I may have missed out on the one solid opportunity to get under 2.19 that day, but it would have been much worse had I gave up on trying. Running 2.26, on that day, was equivalent to running my long term goal of 2.15.00.

I had so many mini disappointments with trying to master the 26.2 mile distance that a 2.26 was an enormous effort and considering what happened within the race, on that day, a 2.26 could have been a much faster time. I was elated.

Closing Thoughts

I have been around the block in this sport and I don’t judge a person as being less talented based on a time they have run. There are countless individuals out there trying as hard as they can and run a time that is considered to others competing at ‘higher levels’ as insignificant, not competitive.

I call BS on that. It isn’t how I live nor how I think. If your doing the very best you can, you are choosing to be great. People that are out training their tails off with a full-time job or who have kids and trying to train are already elite in their own right.

You’ll run faster by letting go of disappointments and using the sadness of that disappointment to fuel your future efforts. The opposite choice is not what you want and will only make getting to your goal a much more difficult option.

Advanced and elite athletes are no better then you. They simply have chosen a field, the risks that go along with training at a high level, and have found a way to endure disappointments longer. How badly do you want your goal?

If someone is working at 100% of their capability and runs a 4.30 marathon or a 22 minute 10K then that, to me, is elite. Elite, to most, is individuals who are the very best in the world or far above average.

Elite, to me, is an individual who is completely enthralled with their running and training and don’t let up. They are goal and mission orientated who simply refuse to quit on their objective. THAT is elite. It is an elite mindset and if you keep that close you will achieve elite results.

It isn’t a marathon time run in this or that time. A 5K run under 13 minutes. There are runners who don’t have that capability (nor do I) but if you don’t let up, even after a failed effort and keep fighting, then you are on another level. Remember that.

Be Patient

Everyone handles disappointments in racing differently. What I have learned is if you are patient enough to put in weeks and months of hard training for a race and miss your goal, then you can be just as patient and do the work to get it right and until you run your best time.

You made the commitment to your goal and if you fail short of it, then you can make the same choice to commit just as hard to working until you do. Let go of a bad race. The sooner you do, the quicker you can get working on your best race to date.

Be Humble

Believe in yourself. Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your powers you cannot be successful or happy – Norman Vincent Peale

One of the hardest things you can do when others are meeting their objectives and you are not. I had teammates, while a member of the Army WCAP team, who worked just as hard as I did who met their Olympic Trials Marathon standards.

Did I work as hard as they did. Absolutely. Was it hard to watch them compete at the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials and not be present with them  in Houston. Yes, but I would rather walk away from a hard fought effort knowing I gave it a shot.

It was great to see Soldiers I trained with qualify and compete in such an elite group.

My WCAP teammate, friend and two-time Olympian, Dan Browne, finished last at the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials. He has been plagued with hip issues the past few months and finished last with a time of 2.42. Want to know the definition of humble?

 It was a tough day for me, but I came here to give it my very best and my very best today was finishing where I did. It’s not an easy thing finishing last, but it’s a harder thing to not finish. People were really, really supportive. – Dan Browne, 2.11.35 PR

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Please feel free to leave a comment. I hope this was helpful. Please send me your feedback as to what areas of training you are would like written about. Any area I can assist you with. Writing on my personal experience in sport is my way of paying it forward to all those who helped me in my own journey.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

11 thoughts on “Disappointment And Running Success

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I am, by no means, ever gonna be considered an elite runner, but I’m that mother/wife/student/employee, who loves to run, and loves even more the idea of becoming faster; for that, I thank you…

  2. Another post that I will read over and over again, reminding myself that beating my head against the wall for sub par performance will get me no closer to my goal. I got the message: let go and re focus. 🙂

  3. Joanne,

    Well easier said then done but I am there with you and know what your going through. Hang in there. So true, evaluating a bad race is ok for a few hours, learn what went wrong, things you could change..but after that, let it go..it simply isn’t worth your energy to re-live it.

    Better efforts ahead!

  4. Angela,

    Thanks for your comment and appreciate your thoughts. Well, being a mother/wife/student/employee is far more impressive then any elite runner. The dedication you bring to the world is all the more inspiring. There is always great deal of attention brought to elite athletics but there should be equal attention to those who are truly doing all they can to run their best. They are just as deserving, if not more.

    A big reason I wanted to form a site like this, to bring more of a voice and attention to runners of ALL capabilities. In fact, I relate better to beginners then I do to some of the top athletes I have trained with.

    I wish you blessings in your training and life and hope you’ll come back to rundreamachieve.

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