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Failing a Marathon Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me



“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” - Brene Brown



One year ago just the thought of running 3 miles would have had me winded. Physically running a mile was a struggle. So, when I tell you that I attempted my first marathon last weekend I honestly don’t recognize who I even am anymore.


Here’s the thing, I didn’t cross the finish line. Well technically I did cross the finish line but I wasn’t standing on my own two feet…  


Contrary to what you see on social media we all fail sometimes. We miss deadlines, we fall short of goals, we disappoint people, and sometimes we find ourselves riding in a fire department’s golf cart… Well maybe you don’t find yourself beside a medic in a golfcart, but I did. 


I don’t think anyone wants all the minor details of my marathon or the post mortem review I did of my race. If you do, feel free to email me as I wrote way more than I’m posting here.


Here’s the quick run down, I’ve been training for months, I even got in a nice 20 mile run about a month ago, but what I didn’t take into account was there is a big difference in asphalt and something called “hard pack” which was really just a gravel path that seemed to go uphill the entire time.


At mile 16 I found myself struggling to stand on the side of a mountain trail. I felt like a boa constrictor was wrapped around my calves while simultaneously feeling sorta how I picture the rotisserie chickens  probably feel at Costco when they are almost finished cooking. Leg cramps reduced me to a hobbling, whimpering mess, questioning every life decision as I was seriously just trying to not pass out from the intense pain.


Here's the thing: amidst the pain, the frustration, something clicked. I realized that "failing" to complete the marathon wasn't the end of the story. It was a chapter, perhaps a messy, sweaty, tearful, gravel-filled chapter, but a chapter nonetheless. It was a testament to the fact that progress, not perfection, is the true measure of success.


We are all going to "fail" sometimes. You might not post it on your website and social media, and that’s fine I don’t blame you. But maybe after you read this you actually will! Because we need to stop acting like life is perfect, I would much rather have failed trying to run a marathon, than sitting on the sofa being winded by the thought of running a 5k.


It’s these moments, these messy chapters in this journey called life, where the real learning happens. Losing and not getting our desired results teach us who we are and what we are capable of doing. Learn the importance of showing up, even when the finish line seems impossibly far away.


So friends, take this from a (slightly bruised and very thirsty) not quite a marathoner: embrace the journey, cry for a minute or two, but laugh at the mishaps, and don't be afraid to get a little gravel under your feet. Because sometimes, the most beautiful victories come wrapped in unexpected packages, with a side of lessons learned and a healthy dose of being able to laugh at yourself. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a Gatorade, my cold plunge and a long hot Epson salt bath. Remember, when you fail, and we all do, failing in style is always the best option.


If you are looking for freedom and happiness here are several key lessons that I think should become part of your playbook to freedom and this applies to all areas of life not just running a marathon.


Say yes especially if it pushing your comfort zone! I had a couple friends ask me if I wanted to run a half marathon in Las Vegas about 8 months ago. Remember, I'm the guy who was not a really a runner. I was a little past being able to run a couple of miles, but running a half marathon seemed impossible. But saying yes is where I have always found the adventure in this journey called life.


Fear of failure is silly. I’m saying this even as I found my legs locked up and I’m close to fainting as I walk back to an aid station on the course. You are going to find out failure is normal, and you can actually look back and laugh if you learn from your losses. Stop being afraid to say yes because of the fear of failing is an awful excuses and the best way for you to end up sitting right where you are today… If you are sitting at your job you’ve have for 10 years because it just barely pays your bills, and you are miserably bored what are you waiting for? Do you think the brinks truck is going to accidently drop a million dollars right in front of you?


Build a plan and follow the plan. I decided to build a plan for my training, the same we plan for our family and our jobs. Before I knew it a half marathon wasn’t as intimidating after months and months of running. Each run I found myself getting better and better. Things that were uncomfortable before were slowly getting easier and more obtainable. I remember completing my first half marathon on a random Sunday, no one else around, no one even knew until I sent a screenshot from my watch to a few friends.


Show up for yourself, when other’s don’t show up, you continue to encourage them, but this is about you more than it is about them. Have a reason for what you are doing, if you make your why big enough you will get days you don't want to get out of bed. You will find a way out of that dead end job, you will realize that saving up for that big dream isn't as hard. It's about you and your why, nothing else, no one else should matter.


Listen to those ahead of you- this is one of the reasons I didn’t finish the marathon. I had trained for many months, I had run further than 16 miles numerous times. All my coaches kept stressing do not change things up on marathon day… But that ended up being exactly what I did. I decided to not take my own water when I saw the organizers said they were going to have plenty of hydration stations. Huge mistake, by mile 10 I was drier than a desert tumbleweed. I also didn’t know what other people would think if they saw me running holding two bananas as a bottle of water…


No one is paying attention to you. This applies to running and life, people aren't focused on you, they are caught up in themselves. I realized this as I was double over in pain and watched runners keep passing by on their race. I’m not inferring they should have stopped or offered assistance, I’m just reminding you that they are focused on themselves so they aren’t focused on you. Do your own thing, but definitely listen to those who are ahead of you! When they tell you to checkout the course before you run it, you should. Asphalt and hard gravel is a big difference, sometimes there really isn’t mind over matter. Sometimes having intel is worth more than blind optimism.


Admitting defeat, Know when its time to call it. I know we all want to have the David Goggins spirit of I’m going to run on broken legs when we want to get a desired end result, but it’s actually ok to say no when it’s not working. It’s not a failure, it’s a learning opportunity. When you shift from I just failed to well I know so much more now than I ever knew about myself and how I can come back better and strong, you just won. Do not define yourself by the result, define yourself by the progress.

 

 

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