The Courage to Succeed

How do you define success in a race? For some, success equals winning. But “winning” itself may also take on different meanings for different people. Does finishing with a PR define your success? Or does simply finishing the race determine that your day was successful? Such that your finisher medal is your living proof of a successful day. Then by default does that mean that a result which is anything short of your determined point of success, is a failure? Maybe. I personally don’t believe that to be the case but a lot of that depends on one’s perspective and expectations. No matter what the result I try not to consider any race a failure.

The reality is that success isn’t a fixed measure of outcome. In 30 years of racing, I’ve defined success a number of different ways. When you first start out I think the measure of success for many people is simply to finish what you started. Crossing the finish line as an official finisher means your day was successful. As you gain a little more experience your point of success may then become besting your previous time. With a little more experience, maybe that success point becomes to finish in the middle of the pack, or the top third, or top 10, or to place in your age group. The definition of success changes over time.

Apost mirror lakeI’ve also defined success a number of different ways in any given race.  I may register for a race with a goal of finishing in the top 3 of my age group. But as we all know, despite our best efforts and plans, things don’t always go our way.  And Mother Nature isn’t always our friend. Any number of things can unravel and prevent you from reaching your original “success” goal. So then what? That’s a simple answer. Give yourself a tiered if-then series of success points  in a race. Missing the mark on your initial target goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Be open to having a “Plan B” that you can quickly adjust to while remaining positive.  And if Plan B implodes, you move on to Plan C. And you do so with optimism and positivity and do whatever it takes to get across that finish line.

Apost medalsBut what if you run out of plans? What if you exhaust your arsenal of fail-safes and do everything in your power to succeed and in spite of all of that are forced to end your day early?  That’s a tough pill to swallow. I’m speaking from experience and I’ve choked on that pill a few times. The first reaction is to hang your head and curl up into a fetal position and reflect (obsess) on all of the things that went wrong. But the reality is, even with a DNF, a lot of things go right. So, sure, maybe you need to go dark for a brief period to fully reconcile any emotional or physical bruising. But keep that period brief, very brief. Pick yourself up, assess your day, make any necessary adjustments, and move on.

Celebrate the fact that you had the motivation to commit, the courage to start, and have the ability to try again another day.

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