Ok, so I said last week that I’d immediately post the lessons I learned from the Mississippi 50. That clearly didn’t happen. I still needed time to process all of my thoughts and emotions about the race. And then when I got them all down on paper, I lost it. The paper, not emotionally. I may or may not have blamed the hubs for throwing it away, only to find it exactly where I had left it—on the floor of his car. Clearly, writing your blog posts on scrap paper has its downsides. But I digress.
Runners put their hearts and souls into races. All those early mornings and miles logged and training plans created, questioned, and executed are important. They represent months of hard work and hopes of success. We all share one goal—to finish strong. It makes sense that not reaching that goal, no matter the circumstance, can take an emotional toll. There’s no sugarcoating it—it sucks.
I knew the odds were against me to finish the 50. I hadn’t run in three weeks, and I was injured. I told myself that I’d be ok if I stopped at 20K—that’s still 12 miles and still an accomplishment. But putting all rational thought aside, I was still upset that I didn’t finish. It hurt. I wanted something so bad that I was willing to hurt myself to get it. Stupid? Yes. But that’s sometimes what ultrarunning is about. And life too, actually.
So I threw myself a quiet pity party for a few days. I put on a brave face and nodded and smiled when people said, “You still did a great job!” Inside though, the overachiever in me kept saying, “Yea but…” I don’t have a shiny new belt buckle to put on a belt that I don’t own. Plain and simple, I didn’t finish what I set out to do.
And then I snapped out of it and came back to reality. What I did was still a great accomplishment. I still had fun. There will be other races. But the entire experience got me thinking about why I, and society as a whole, are never content with just being “good enough.” We always want to accomplish our goals, and consider it a failure if we don’t. It makes no sense. So I came up with a few ways that helped my Type A self come to terms with being good enough:
Own up to it—Shit happens. Sometimes it’s not our fault, but a lot of the time it is. Take a step back and think about where you went wrong. Then learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.
I set myself up for failure. The doctor said not to run if I was hurting. But I let my pride and stubbornness get in the way and wouldn’t listen to reason. I broke the #1 rule—I didn’t listen to my body, and as a result I could have hurt myself worse. I was dumb. I learned my lesson.
Celebrate little victories—You didn’t reach your main goal. Ouch. But look back at everything you did to get to that moment. Did you do things you never thought you could? Push yourself to new limits? Become a better person? All of that doesn’t automatically disappear because you didn’t meet your original goal. You still succeeded in other ways.
At the end of the day, I still trained for a 50-miler. A distance most people wouldn’t fathom running. I ran the miles, and I’m confident that I would have finished strong. No one can take that away.
Be proud you tried—You know the inspirational saying or quote or whatever about what would happen if no one tried anything for fear of failing? It’s true. Don’t dwell on the fact that you failed, be proud that you tried something that was difficult enough to fail at.
As stupid as it was to run, it would have been worse had I stayed home, wondering how the race would have gone. At least I was able to get out there and give my gimpy 100% and know I did everything I could to finish.
Ease off the negative thoughts—Don’t be so hard on yourself that you can’t see your achievements. Beating yourself up over a missed goal gets you nowhere but into a shitty frame of mind. You are your biggest cheerleader—now act like it.
I kept playing the “what if” game with myself, wondering if I could have been tougher and finished the race. Pointless and stupid. It is what it is—I can’t go back and change anything. I chose to dwell on the fact that I didn’t finish the 50 rather than the fact that I ran 31 miles. My glass wasn’t anywhere near half full. Bad Tanya.
Keep setting high goals—Don’t let the fact that you didn’t succeed scare you into setting easier goals for next time. Take the lessons that you learned and try again. Tap into your inner badass.
While the 50-mile distance still scares me, I know that I can do it. So I already have my sights set on the future—50 miles, 100k, 100 miles. YOLO.
I’m talking specifically about running here, but these can be applied to anything in life. We all fall short of our goals at times—it’s how we find the good in the situation and overcome disappointment that matters. Because being good enough is still pretty fucking fantastic.