Success and Failure
More often than not, the things I say go in one ear and out the other. That glazed look that comes over your eyes as you nod eagerly and attempt to look engaged is unmistakable. I don't fault you for it, I totally understand why some of the things I say are difficult for you to grasp. It is easy to be patient with most of my run clients because I know that if you just do what I say to do then the understanding will follow; those who demand understanding and proof positive before attempting something unfamiliar rarely learn anything.
I also totally understand why you want to lose your minds when you ask me simple questions like, "May I do Orange Theory/bootcamp instead of SSCs?" or "should I eat before or during a long run?" and you get a super long-winded and overly-philosophical answer that doesn't include the words 'yes' or 'no'. Critical thinking is hard, yo!
During our time together, I have challenged you to (re)define simple concepts like, "easy effort" and "strength training." Rather than letting you fall into the trap of, "could I go harder? Yes? then this by default EASY!" I force you to think critically and analytically about the effort you are putting out at any given workout. Rather than letting you stick anything that sounds like 'that is exercise' into a neat little cross-training or strength box, I have encouraged (forced?) you to think critically and analytically about strength to make sure you are getting what you need out of every workout. Today, we are going to define another familiar concept: success.
Most of us don't think critically and analytically about success and failure. Our goals are wrapped up in (arbitrary) pace numbers that are easy to grasp. Pace goals CAN BE fine and useful to a certain extent, but more often than not they tell us nothing about our performance. At least, those numbers tell me nothing about your performance. My goals for you aren't secret, but I don't usually share them with you before a race for fear of that glazed look in your eye coming at me while you pretend to agree that something other than pace can matter.
This is a long way of saying, "I never want you to cross a finish line and think that you failed or that your training was wasted." You cannot possibly know if you failed until you've defined success, and success is much more than a pace figure.
I will revisit this topic later; I fear this email is too long already. As we head into the Spring Training season, I want you to spend some time thinking long and hard about what success will look like for you; no pace numbers allowed.
I have copied and pasted a fantastic email from MacMillan Running coach Jonny Wilson below. I'm not going to pretend that missing a pace or time goal doesn't suck, but as your coach I will absolutely tell you that doesn't define success. Only elites are judged solely by numbers, and THANK GOD we are not elite!
Coach MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC where she coaches all kinds of runners for $30 per month and gives marathon plans away for free. Click here to download her Marathon Selection Guide!
"Falling short of your goals does not equal failure." -McMillan Coach Jonny Wilson As runners we constantly find ourselves in a race against time and chasing certain standards. This can define our position in the sport and allow us to see how we stack up against others. While standards like Boston Qualifying times motivate us to set goals, push beyond limits we once thought impossible, and feel a sense of accomplishment, falling short of these goals we dreamed of and worked so tirelessly towards for so long can leave us feeling empty and heartbroken. However, no matter how painful falling short of our goals may feel in the moment, this does not mean we’re failures and that all our efforts were pointless. Since August 1, 2013, when the qualifying window opened, I attempted to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon which just took place in Los Angeles on February 13, 2016. My goal was to achieve the “B” standard of 1:05:00 or faster in the half-marathon. After running a big PR of 1:05:25 in the fall of 2012, it seemed like a realistic goal that I could achieve the standard and qualify sometime in the next two and a half years.
Despite a year of dealing with injury, I continued to train passionately towards the goal, never once believing I was not good enough to accomplish it. In March 2015 I improved my time to 1:05:20, and by October 2015 I was down to 1:05:09. All I needed was to do was make the same improvement in a race over the next 3 months and I could call myself an Olympic Trials Qualifier. I was hoping that day would be January 17, 2016, the very last day to qualify. After four weeks of flawless training leading into the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon, nine days before the race I slipped on the ice during an easy run and fell on my right hip bone. Instantly I felt my dream was shattered but luckily my proactive measures of rest, ice and several massage treatments allowed me to arrive at the race a week later virtually pain-free, with spirits high and excited to finally accomplish my goal.
After going through 10km and 10 miles on track, I thought for sure I was going to get it. But then I hit the wall. I quickly went from running 4:56/mile to 5:20/mile. Heading into the final mile I knew I had no chance to hit the time, but I still kept pushing as hard as I could to try to get the best out of myself on the day, ultimately crossing the line in 1:05:52, only my 4th fastest half-marathon time to date. I was disappointed walking away from the line that day realizing my dream of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials was over but I was actually not nearly as down or upset as I had been in the past after much smaller, less important races due to how much pursuing this goal for so long helped both challenge and change me as a runner and a person. Even though it did not unfold the way I visualized it, it does not feel like failing to me. It is all the other days during the process that make up the value of my life and all the days that are to come. As Greg told me following Houston, “You’ve done a great job chasing that standard, and while a bit short this time, you are set up for even better racing now. Be open to lots of distances and training types and you’ll continue to develop as you head towards 2020.”
It's okay and perfectly normal to be upset at not achieving a goal but if running shows us nothing else, it's that there is value in the journey, not just the destination. And, you just never know how this may help you in the future. Onward to 2020!