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. []