Coming Up Short

I, like most of you, don’t especially like failure. I, like you, also know that failure can serve as an opportunity to learn, grow, and wallow in cheese-and-chive-flavoured snacks. At the start of June, I set a goal I had no intention of failing. I wanted to run 240 kilometres in six weeks. That’s nothing for some people, but it served as a solid mountain for me to climb. I’d have to push, but I believed I could reach the summit.

I started strong, logging 40 kilometres in each of the first three weeks. Then in week four – a week I knew would be tough time-wise, with work and travel obligations – I fell behind. With two weeks left and needing to average 50 kilometres a week to hit 240, I ran week five hard and put myself in position to make it. But in the process, I lost my juice, had zero energy, and decided to white-flag it with about 25 kilometres to go.

I told myself that in the grand scheme, not hitting a short-term mileage goal isn’t why I run or even close to the top of list of things I want to accomplish on the road. I also wrestled with what message I was sending to myself – about bailing when I get tired, about not sucking it up for just a few more days, about what I would do when there was a higher-stakes goal within reach.

And then I thought about something I learned about goals from runner Tony Bevis, who I interviewed for an upcoming project. He told me about the time he set a goal to climb a significant mountain (literally, not metaphorically) as a way to help him in his journey to lose weight. On the day of his climb, he had to stop and turn around before he reached the top. Instead of harping on the fact that he didn’t make the top, he looked at his climb as an accomplishment because he had gone higher than he ever had before.

It’s taken me some time to bounce back from my energy-zapped ending of my mileage quest, but I know that I took away something even though I came up short. So many times in our running endeavors, we look at our watches and our Garmins and our apps and our diaries and our medals as successes or failures. Either-or. Win or lose. PB or not. Tony reminded me it doesn’t have to be that way.

I fully accept that I failed my stated goal, and perhaps this is just my way of trying to soften that fact. But for the time being, I’m getting out of the black-and-white game, and I’m going to run in all grey.


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