Today I completed a long run as I prepare for my first half-marathon on Labor Day Weekend. I ran 10.1 miles. When I say I ran 10.1 miles, I actually did run the entire 10.1 miles without any walk breaks. Prior to today, I’d never run more than 5-6 miles without stopping. I also had never completed a double-digit mileage run. On Thursday of this week, I had to walk several times during a 3 mile tempo run as knee pain forced me to stop and walk or risk injuring myself. I was not very happy with the tempo run and considered that run a small failure. I was ecstatic after this morning’s run and considered it a huge success.
I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, so I’ve struggled during my short running career after those failure runs. If you’ve done any running, you know what those runs are like. Your legs are leaden. Your lungs burn. Your quads, hamstrings, or calves burn (or all three) and throb with each step. You often finish the run slower that you started and are so glad the run is over. While you may not feel the greatest about yourself after these types of runs, you are at least glad that they are over and glad that you did them.
Thankfully most of us also experience runs like my run today. You start out slowly, you work out the aches in the first few miles, and then slowly work into a comfortable pace. Your breathing is calm and measured. Your legs feel like they could go forever. You seem to have a reserve in the tank as you near the end of the run. You quicken your pace a bit at the end and it doesn’t feel forced. You finish strong and know you have more left if you needed it. You feel awesome and are brimming with confidence when the run is over. You feel the runner’s high.
I only took up running last year at the age of 53. I’ve been a late bloomer in many phases of my life, a life filled with many successes and failures. I only earned my bachelor’s degree in 2011 from Clark University. I waited until 2014 to try and take control of my health by joining FXB where for the last year and half I’ve been kickboxing and building strength through their program of high-intensity cardio kickboxing, strength training and proper nutrition. About this time last year, I checked out a Mississippi Valley Running Association breakfast and began running with the Dubuque Running Club. I spent 15 years in Dubuque, Iowa before I started actually developing friendships, setting roots, and experiencing the mystery of life in this beautiful city on the Mississippi River.
“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” – Stephen McCranie
Whether it is your job, your relationships or your life in general, you can’t avoid failures. They are going to happen. They may be small or they may be big, but failures will happen. One of the most important things you can do after a failure is to try again. Whether it is a failed at bat, a failed run, a failed presentation, a failed sales attempt, or a failed relationship you must try again. To become good at anything, to become successful, you must continue to try. In some cases you must just try again, without a lot of thought or examination but in other instances, you need some time. You must try until you achieve a success and then continue building upon each success.
I didn’t run a 5K without stopping until November of 2014. My pace was quite slow. There were people who could walk a 5K faster than I could run it. I felt 70 years old that day (no offense to 70 year olds, especially considering that there are probably many of them who could have run a 5K faster than I did that day) but I also felt a sense of accomplishment. I’m also definitely not a master when it comes to running but I’ve tried to run three times a week since then. I’ve continued to try and as far as running goes, my current failures are still better than my successes of a year ago.
I love sites like Strava and Polar Flow as they allow me to really see my progress in my running and my fitness. Whether it is more miles than I ran last month or last year or simply a faster pace than I ran last month or last year, I can visually see the progress I’ve made. It puts things in perspective and makes the successful days even better and puts the bad days in perspective. Now, if there only were devices and websites where we could see our progress, our successes and our failures, in other categories of our life, such as our work performance or our relationships, than we would maybe be better able to put those failures we experience on a regular basis into perspective. However, at this point I’m not aware of any website or tool that allows us to measure the success or failure of our jobs or relationships.
There are some in the running community who place more importance on running by feel than by relying on your cellphone or GPS watch to measure your pace. Those who are able to measure their pace by feel don’t force things and are better able to achieve that comfortable pace whether on a long run or in a race. What I believe we must all do is hone our senses, our intuition, to judge these non-measurables by feel in our life as well.
Whether it is running or relationships however, the important thing to remember is that one run, one day does not make us a success or a failure. When we have a bad run or a bad day, we must put that behind us and try again on the next run or the next day. If we have a great day, a success, we must build upon it by trying to repeat that success or improve upon it. If we wish to master a task or master life, we must continue to try, to practice, to learn and to succeed. But we also have to be prepared for failure along the way so that the successes seem that much sweeter.