Learning From Failure

I am so very proud of my recent marathon finish, but despite always being an athlete and running for as long as I can remember, my first attempt at running a full marathon was less than successful…

Last summer, I was in the final leg of my one year accelerated graduate program and working part-time.  It was the first time in my life that I truly felt as though I was no longer an athlete.  College sports were over and I didn’t have any recreational leagues on my horizons.  One of my very best friends, Alyssa, is also an avid runner and we decided a marathon was just the challenge we needed.

We began our training mid-May with our goal race being the Detroit Free Press International Marathon in mid-October.  The first four weeks of training were the same to help build a solid base for the rest of training.  That first month went great and I was feeling proud of my start.  As the final semester got tougher and the temperatures started rising, I felt myself losing steam and focus.  It was a lot harder to juggle it all than I had thought!training

After a terrible experience with a new shoe purchase (I will fill you on that experience later) and a 10-mile run that left my feet covered in blisters, I really cut back on training.  I focused on school and got as many runs in as I could, but was not where I should have been come graduation in August.  The final straw for me was an attempted 12-mile run with Alyssa that left us struggling to get to eight miles.  In that moment, we both agreed that the full marathon was not in our cards for the year.

Disappointed in myself, I moved back to Buffalo with little motivation to run at all.  I got into the habit of running for 10 minutes then walking 1 minute for the course of 5 miles.  It wasn’t until September that I regained motivation for running.  I began running 5-6 days a week without stopping during the runs.  I alternated between 5 mile runs and 3 mile runs with Saturday simply being a timed run.

When race weekend finally arrived, I told myself I could conquer the half marathon distance and drove out to Michigan to spend the weekend with Alyssa and her fiance, Alex.  On race morning, I drove into downtown Detroit and took my place in the starting corral.  I felt a rush of emotions when the announcer was talking about the thousands of runners who came in for the event and the months of training and dedication that it took to get us to reach this point.  I felt a great connection to everyone around me and felt a true connection to the sport of running for the first time in my life.  I also felt like a fraud; I was not as prepared as I should have been.half award

I ultimately finished the race in a shocking time of one hour, 56 minutes.  Breaking the two hour barrier was a great accomplishment but all I could think about was how much better I would have felt had I trained properly.  I went home with a newly found motivation to conquer my original goal of running a full marathon.

What others would call a “failed” marathon attempt, I like to think of as a learning experience.  Running a great time in the half was not redemption for me.  I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied until I completed a full. After taking some time to recover from the half and some foot swelling, I decided at the end of December that it was time to train!

As one of my heroes would say:  “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” John Wooden

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