Did not finish or did not fail?

Sometimes, wanting something isn’t quite enough. I work in education and we teach our students that it is okay to fail — that failure is a learning process. As I work through swirling emotions regarding my marathon attempt last Saturday, I am trying to remember those things.

It was definitely a learning opportunity. I tried a new training plan after following more-or-less the same one since I started running marathons. This one was different — including no long runs over 16 miles — but I stuck to it pretty faithfully and enjoyed the workout progression.

But, subtract from that equation a few obstacles — quite a bit of snow earlier this year that forced a lot of my training indoors; horrendous allergy season once the snow went away. 

So, as I stood on the line Saturday morning for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, I said aloud: “I’m not sure I’m ready for this.”

I wasn’t. That was the scariest part. Normally when I toe the line with 26 miles ahead of me, I can look at my training and know I am ready. If I wasn’t, I had make the decision weeks before to drop down to the half.

But this time I just did’t know. I had followed the plan, but I didn’t really feel ready. 

Sometimes, you have to be willilng to try — even if it means failing. I figured I would give it a shot and see how things panned out.

On the upside, the first 9 miles were excellent. I went out a little fast but felt good and the weather was cooperating — we were operating with a 100% chance of rain and likely thunderstorms, but started with just an infrequent misting.

Side bar: I’ve had good weather for each of the nine marathons I’ve run before. Instead of hoping my good-weather mojo would save the day, maybe I should’ve taken the rain as a sign I wasn’t ready.

We hit the hills around mile 12, a 3-mile section through beautiful Iroquois Park. I fell of pace and was feeling discouraged. Once out of the park, the clouds opened — absolute downpour. I was already wet, but now I was soaked, complete with heavy, sloppy shoes.

I wanted to set a personal best at this race and have set PRs at every other distance since last summer. I know it is in me, but it wasn’t in me that day.

At mile 17.5, with the rain still coming down hard, I stepped off the course. My husband had been running point-to-point and was waiting there, under an umbrella with my inlaws … who conveniently were parked nearby.

The first thing I said was, “Take me home.”

I was cold, I was defeated, I was frustrated. When my husband asked what was wrong, I walked away and cried. Then I walked back and cried again.

What followed was essentially a walk of shame. We drove over to where other friends and family were waiting to cheer me on — in the rain, waiting for me. And I had failed them. Even worse, we weren’t sure exactly where they were and could only get so close in the car — and I was so cold I couldn’t even get out to jog with Chris to find them and let them know. 

Then, once I got back to the car, I had texts to answer about what happened and confirming, yes, I had dropped out, no, nothing was seriously wrong.

I cried some more on the way home. Then I had a margarita. (I would recommend that strategy.)

So, my first marathon DNF. It stings. But there are many more races to run, and every race won’t be perfect. I’ve opted to not try another one this spring, but to instead pick up a half marathon over Memorial Day weekend in Owensboro, Ky., where my mom lives. I’ll pair that with some shorter summer races and build my confidence back up. And I’ve already reserved a hotel for Indianapolis, where Chris and I plan to run the Monumental Marathon (again) in November.

Wanting to run a personal best isn’t quite enough to get the job done — but it’s the motivation to keep trying. 

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