Negotiating the failure and fear in the air

Negotiating the failure and fear in the air

In a strange coincidence over the past few weeks, it seems that my worlds have collided; that is, some of my favorite higher ed bloggers are writing about the same topics as my favorite running-related bloggers and vice-versa.  It’s only strange because I don’t recall it ever happening.  (Usually, higher ed bloggers don’t particularly care about Yasso 800 repeats or marathon PRs, nor do running bloggers really care about what President Obama has to say about the DREAM Act or taking for-profit higher education institutions to town.  Surprising, I know.)

The topic?  Failure.

A bit unnerving to read, to say the least, in the final weeks (nay, days) before my marathon.

The bloggers have essentially shared the same premise: though it sucks, failure can teach you loads.  Of course, we have all been in class at one point or another, only to realize that our study method wasn’t as spectacular as we had hoped, or that our stroke of brilliance in an essay was anything but.  It can be a blow to our pride, but it’s a great tool that we can use when we revisit the assignment or work on similar assignments in the future.

In the running world, our failures can hurt, both mentally and physically, when we realize that a) we’re overtrained; b) we’re undertrained; c) that gel/beverage/last night’s dinner is NOT a good prelude to a run; or d) our skin feels like it’s going to fall off, reminding us that it damn near kills when you forget to lube-up before a run, no matter its length.  You may think that some of these happenings are more “errors” than failure, but I respectfully disagree.  (I realize that “success” and “failure” is a pretty rigid dichotomy, don’t get me wrong, but for today’s purposes, I’m not necessarily averse to failure.)  In other words, failure, in some ways, can be the ultimate (read: best) feedback out there.

Tangentially related to the notion of failure, in my opinion, is how we negotiate fear… and again, this isn’t unique to the “running worlds” of our lives.  What holds us back from applying for that job that may be a stretch yet one wherein our passions truly lie?  There always seems to be a reason why we’re not sufficiently “ready” for something—a big life change (marriage, babies, beginning to date again), a career transition, making ourselves vulnerable, things of that nature—but when will we ever really be “ready”?

For a long time, I’ve said that if all goes well (a great qualifier), or if the stars align, I want to try to break my 3:37 PR that I’ve had since 2008 and shoot for a 3:35 on 10/10/10.  Is it a stretch?  Absolutely.  Am I fearful that I’m setting myself up for failure, or, at the very least, disappointment?  You bet.  Yet if I don’t articulate that which I want most—to do exceptionally well (for my standards) at the race—I’m already holding myself back.  I’m not allowing myself to receive the type of feedback that may prove to be beneficial to me in the long run.

This post is way more personal (and serious!) than usual, and the vulnerability that’s seeping out of me right now is enough to make me feel damn near nauseated… but I think there’s value in practicing what I preach.  I’m open to failure, and if I don’t sufficiently challenge myself, success will not be as great as it deserves to be.  Over the years, I think running has transformed the way I think about things (for better or worse), probably from the amount of time I’m spending on my feet, sola, with all the oxygen and endorphins raging to my brain.  Call it a Runners’ High if you want… I call it my Moments of Clarity. 🙂

And with that, here are some pretty humbling (read: phenomenal) marathoning-related quotes to ponder in our final days before 10/10/10, courtesy of VAAM-Power:

“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who has never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”
Jerome Drayton

“We are different, in essence, from [others]. If you want to win something, run 100 meters.  If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”

Emil Zatopek

“There is the truth about the marathon, and very few of you have written the truth. Even if I explain to you, you’ll never understand it; you’re outside of it.
Douglas Wakiihuri, speaking to journalists [personal fav]

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