Why Failure Is Important

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I came across this wonderful video of J.K. Rawling and wanted to post it here at rundreamachieve.com. The likelihood that many of you, if not all, have failed (as have I) at a fitness, racing or professional goal is very high.

I mentioned this in Disappointment. How To Overcome It and Run Faster how the failures we encounter as athletes are really the force behind  continuing on with our hard work.

If your like me, failures only make the diligence to go after a goal more evident.

It is hard to deal with missing a goal or objective but if you look at the most successful runners and leaders in any area they all have had to encounter some serious disappointments. They all failed numerous times.

I watched this video of J.K Rawling and thought back to some of my worst races. A 3.05 marathon I ran at the 2010 Grandmas Marathon. I was so unbelievably overtrained and tired. I couldn’t believe after 3 miles into that race I wanted to call it a day. I had to finish specifically because the Army had payed my way there.

I had an enormous opportunity to return back to the Army World Class Athlete Program having run a PR of 2.19.35 at the 2007 California International Marathon.

The staff were clearly excited to have me back and I was determined to run under the new USA Track and Field standard of 2.19.00 needed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials.

Little did I know that I would spend from October of 2008 all the way to December of 2011 chasing that 2.19.00 time. What is 35 seconds right? I missed the time over and over and over again.

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I had a glimmer of hope after many failed attempts and ran a 2.26.42 in November of last year, which to me, was just as rewarding as breaking 2.19.00.

Why? Cause of all the failures I had had along the way leading up to that race. A 2.36 at the 2009 California International Marathon (after a 1.08.33 opening half and 1.50 at 20 miles). It was an enormous effort (and I had to make an emergency porta john stop to boot, could have been a 2.22-24 time).

A 2.40 I had run at the 2011 BMO Vancouver (Canada) Marathon (after a 1.08.56 opening half and still in 2.24 marathon pace at mile 20 only to finish in 2.40). Two other marathons above 3 hours and a few more failed attempts along the way a 2.26 was brought about through sheer willingness to keep at it.

Jonathan Fields, in his article, Why Failure Must Be On The Table put it perfectly,

The potential not just for failure, but failure that matters, failure you feel, must be on the table. If it’s not, then what you’re setting out to do is either so safe or so devoid of the the potential for impact that success might allow you to check a box on a piece of paper, but beyond that, nobody’ll care. Including you.

That quote is HUGE. The bottom line is you have to accept failure in pursuit of your running aspirations. If you are a 17 minute 5K runner seeking to break 16 minutes, don’t get disheartened if you go out and hit a 16.55..a 5 second improvement is still a personal best and 5 seconds closer to your goal.

The reason this site is so important to me (and the current projects I am working on for the visitor in mind) is that I can relate heavily to runners out there who are not noticed, who have encountered countless failures and have far more capability than they are showing.

This, perhaps, could be because there is an aspect of their training that is at the root of the problem.

In Fueling. How To Avoid Bad Races By Taking In More Calories   I go in-depth on what has caused me the most heartache in my marathon racing. How I have adjusted and what has happened with my own training.

Have you been beating yourself over the head wondering why you are not running up to your capability. Please consider that read. What I admire about J.K. Rawling is here is a woman who was homeless, a single parent who refused to quit on a gift (her passion) that otherwise would never had been seen had she given up.

Dr. Joe Vigil, one of the most celebrated distance running coaches in world history put it like this,

When excellence is in sight, good is not enough

Never accept less then you’re best and often times failures simply show us that we can do better. We have more capability. The objective is to not let them get the best of us and cause us to let go of our hopes and dreams.

Darren Hardy in his book, The Compound Effectfailure says,

Don’t try to fool yourself into believing that a mega-successful athlete didn’t live through regular bone-crushing drills and thousands of hours of practice. He got up early to practice-and kept practicing long after all others had stopped. He faced the sheer agony and frustration of the failure, loneliness, hard work, and disappointment it took to become #1.

Sound like you?

Failures should never be the reason to not keep trying. As long as you can find meaning and enjoyment in this sport then you need to keep fighting hard and preparing to go after your goals. It isn’t easy.

It sucks sometimes and adding in work, requests and tasks given to us from our bosses only makes the journey that much more difficult. That being said, embrace it and consider it a challenge.

I was booted out of the Army W.C.A.P. program because I didn’t make the cut in time. I had 10 months to get a sub 2.19.00 marathon, not really an easy thing to do, especially if you keep running back to back marathons…but you have to keep going.

Don’t be afraid to fail! The quickest way to reaching your athletic goals (and professional goals) is to accept failure for what it is, a tool to get you motivated, no matter what, to achieve your objective.

In the 16 marathons that I have run, the majority I have failed at, succumbing to fatigue which forced me to either walk or jog the last 5-8 miles in nearly all of them. Thus, the reasoning behind writing the above mentioned posts.

Countless times while entering the latter stages of the event I have caught myself asking, “Why is this happening? ‘I am far better then I am showing'”.

I suppose when your body runs out of the necessary sugars needed to keep muscle function going and lactic acid in check, the motivation to think ahead remains.

I always kept my workouts, the great training I have done in my life as motivation to overcome the disappointment I felt in those depressing moments in the marathon. The moments when knowing you are on sub-2.20 pace for 20 miles and knowing full well the finish time will not reflect your capability.

My army teammate, Kenny Foster, who had a PR of 2.29.59 entering the unit as a conditional athlete bettering it to 2.23.03 suffered as well. A few bad races, diagnosed with anemia (as was I while training in colorado springs) and the pressure from others to perform.

Was he immune to failure? Absolutely not, flew to the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon fully prepared to break the 2.19.00 time needed to qualify.

He hit the half marathon point in a new PR of 1.07.51 and ended up dropping out after 18 miles.

He stuck to it and by the end of 2011 and ran a new best of 2.19.49 at the 2011 California International Marathon. It takes time and patience that you have to take with you every step of the way.

A learning tool that can really only make you a tougher athlete. I ran a 2.55 marathon at the 2010 City of Los Angeles Marathon. Nearly quit when I crossed the finish line. I was almost to my wits end. So I thought.

There was a serious problem with my racing at 26.2 miles. I was overtrained, chasing a time goal and running out of time before I would head off to a regular army unit where I knew trying to train full-time and run a world-class marathon time would be extremely difficult.

You have to keep a level head. An absolute stoic attitude that regardless what happens, what time constraints will be eventually put on you. You ARE going to nail down your goal. I am now in that situation again.

I will not run one race in 2012. It is hard to know that but I accept it. I have 2013 in mind and possibly it is the welcome break my body needed in order to go after my long term goal of running a 2.15 marathon.

I hope you enjoy the video and can take away a few things J.K. Rawling says and use it toward your next race. Accept failure as a blessing, not as a vehicle for you to give up on your running goals. Consider me and the countless others who have had to fail first before the ‘big one’ was run.

Take a look at the video, tell me what you think. How has failure impacted your willingness to improve?

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3 thoughts on “Why Failure Is Important

  1. Thanks JS. Her video really hit home with me not only as an athlete but some of the things I am dealing with outside of athletics. We have to encourage one another and others. I hope your training is going well and you nail down the race times your aiming at. 

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