A win is always a win. It feels great, it can build confidence and it can let you know you are on the right path. Sometimes I think we can get so wrapped up in the positive vibes we get from a good win that we forget how amazing a failure can be for us. Does that statement sound crazy to you? I believe that wins are fun, and failures are fundamental.
Back in 2015 when I was training for my first half marathon I was following a plan that had me scheduled to run a 5K as part of the plan. I found a race in Georgetown the day that I was scheduled to run one and got signed up. I looked at the course maps carefully and mapped them out saw that it was a flat course so I was ready. It was at a point that I was way past running 3.1 miles regularly and I knew I was ready to kill it in that race and set a new PR. Actually the PR part was going to be easy. I had run that distance twice the week before at a PR pace. I just wanted to do it in a race to make it “official”.
Race day came and I took off…confidently. After about 3/4 of a mile, we hit a decent little hill and it was no problem. In my mind, I thought wow that must be the only hill that was as much elevation gain as I had calculated for the entire course. With no hills coming up I knew it was time to push for that PR and get a big win. I increased my pace and started going for it. The next mile or so was pretty good and I was still going strong for the PR. Then we made a turn and headed up what seemed like Mt. Everest by the time I got to the end. Now if you are familiar with Georgetown the Appalachian mountains don’t go that far north. Downtown Georgetown (at least the part we ran) doesn’t even really have any big hills. What I actually ran into was a slow steady grade that should not have been a determining factor in the race. It was steeper than I anticipated and much longer than I anticipated. I knew I was in trouble about half way “up the mountain” when a guy pushing a stroller came running past me. The discouraging part was that I had just passed him walking the stroller not too far back.
I ended up walking the last part of that hill. I ended up walking with a 1/2 mile to go and again with less than a 1/4 mile to go. Then worse of all, I walked with the finish line in view because I had nothing left in the tank. I wasn’t prepared for hills the way I thought I was. During my training, I avoided hills when possible because I didn’t like running them. Plus, I had a plan but when I thought the hills were behind me I changed plans mid-race and paid a big price for that change. The extra push used the energy that I could have used to get past that one long hill. The extra energy I used wasn’t actually extra. It was needed for me to follow a plan and meet my goal.
I didn’t PR that race. I failed big time. My pace was slower than most of my training runs. That failure was fundamental to my training. I changed my morning run routine after that to hit every hill possible. I learned that when I make a plan it is better to follow it and make my goals instead of going big and hoping it pays off big. My next race was the first half marathon I ran. That race my plan worked perfectly. I held myself back some at the beginning and then got faster each mile. Negative splits for my first half marathon was a much bigger win than that PR in a 5K would have been. The next half I ran was MUCH hillier than that 5K, but I was prepared because of the lesson I learned about my training. I ended up setting a new PR in the second half that was so much harder than the first.
A PR win at that first 5K would have been a disaster for my training. I needed that failure. In life, we love the wins and that is understandable. What I think needs to be celebrated so much more are our failures. Without them, we wouldn’t even be able to understand what a win truly is.