Running a Successful Failure

I finally finished reading the last 20 pages or so of Dallas Smith’s Falling Forward: Tales from an Endurance Saga on Friday night. This should have been perfect timing, as Angela and I were to run the Monument Avenue 10k the very following morning. Dallas’1 book is loaded not just with stories of his 100mi./100mi./50mi. adventure, but also with his quest to set records for shorter road races in the state of Tennessee. I tried to keep all those in mind but there were two things wrong with that.

Dallas’ book also ends on a note warning against the main cause of failure in runners: giving up. Runners’ bodies don’t fail them as much as the runners fail themselves. This was my case on Saturday morning. Actually, it goes back for over a month before, when I should have been thinking much more seriously about my goal.

Last year, I flirted with the 50 minute mark in a 10k race for the first time. Had I just shave 7 seconds off of each mile I’d have broken it. I knew I’d do it the next year given how well I’d been progressing. Having now run a marathon and several other races, I had even more confidence this would be my year to do so. Of course, your body will only prepare for what you make it get ready for. I simply hadn’t been running and when I was running, I was only doing 3-4 miles at a time.

I ran a relatively fast 5k, at which my body just felt completely out of energy. I ended up walking at every mile marker past then until the finish. The weather was warmer than we’d had in the past few weeks (at 9:00 am, anyway) and I wasn’t prepared for that kind of heat, either. That being said, it wasn’t so hot as to keep me from running fast. That was a result of not preparing. I ended up with a respectable time of 54:28, which was nearly 4 minutes slower than last year. Angela, on the other hand, took about 3 minutes off of her first 10k last year.

It’s not a matter of not finishing the race, such as in a long distance or ultra endurance race. I’ve been running enough over the past few years that the hurdle of simply finishing a 10k is far behind me (although still a very real challenge for many and well-worth working towards). However, a goal of running 8:06 minute miles is one that I can’t approach lightly. I’m not that fast and it takes real training for both speed and endurance to make that. I know I can do it, but I failed miserably this past Saturday. However, it’s a failure that will stick with me and make me work harder next year.

  1. Okay, I confess, I have always referred to him as Dr. Smith since most of my contact with the man has been through the academic setting. However, first names will do here, regardless of how I actually address him in person. []

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