Failure, it’s an interesting word, and often one that holds us all back if we are honest. I’m writing this post as I sit on the train from Manchester back to Euston about 4 and a half hours after I finished the Greater Manchester Marathon.
In December 2015 I set myself a very tough personal challenge of aiming to run a marathon in under 3 hours, which is averaging at around 6:50min/mile pace. Warren and I continue to state that we are not athletes but we do enjoy setting challenges to see how far the body and mind can go.
One of the key lessons that Warren and I have learnt over the past couple of years of taking on challenges is to enjoy the process of being the best you, and not to beat yourself up when things don’t go to plan, like today.
Training over the past 16 weeks went to plan, I followed it religiously and found myself getting faster and the body adjusting in terms of the increase in pace and recovery time/approach. Did I feel confident of achieving? If I’m being honest I was, but I’m also not naive enough to ignore the fact that events like today are also about how you feel on the day and the conditions etc. Thankfully I felt great when I woke up this morning and the weather could not have been better, a crisp clear blue sky and hardly any wind.
The race went really well in the early stages, sitting in with the 3 hour pace runner with a group of around 50 other runners, the pace was very consistent, between 6:41 and 6:51 min/mile pace, I even managed to chat to a few other runners about the joy of running on a flat course compared to Guernsey (I’m not sure they were happy to talk).
I found myself still chuckling at a certain MarathonManUK who said he was going to jog and go for a 3:30 time and use it as a training run. As the elite runners came back up the road to was mile 1 and were just going through the turn, there was Robert Young, leading the race, bloody brilliant that guy.
I went through the halfway point bang on 1:30hr, Louise was waiting there to cheer me on, I managed to see her and pointed to my head and smiled. This was meant to indicate that I felt I had it in my mind and it was about the body coming along with me.
The next few miles flew by and the support was brilliant, I made sure to high-five the young kids that had come out to support us runners, it was great fun and it also helped ignore the pain that the body was quietly trying to tell me about.
Mile 20 – right, just a 10km race to go I thought, the wheels were still on and the body was aligning to the mind telling it that sub 3 hour was on. Up to around mile 20 we had been in a big pack of 50 or so runners, suddenly it thinned out and I found myself with only a few runners around me, it was interesting how the pack thinned out.
Mile 22 it started to get interesting, I ran past a few runners that were now walking due to cramp and the body starting to get the better of the mind and question the ability to stick to the 6:50 min/mile pace.
The body couldn’t stick at that pace, I needed to back off slightly. This was an interesting process. I had to dig deep and pull on all the experience and dark times of the 7 marathons in 7 days and the EPIC48 challenge.
I need to thank a few strangers in the crowds, the shouts of “this is where the hard miles count” and “you haven’t run 23 miles to give up now” really helped. They may sound like cliches but when you have someone you don’t know give up their Sunday morning to cheer you in it really does help.
Encouragement is vital, we all need more of it and we all need to give more of it.
There was a great moment at 24 miles, a poor guy in front of me stopped with cramp, a supporter tried to encourage him by shouting “don’t stop now mate, run through the pain” far easier said than done, but it helped me, it gave me a boost to just keep going.
I knew the sub 3 hour was out of reach but wanted to get a sub 3:05 now, the last mile or so were great, making sure to get eye contact with the amazing supporters on the roads, giving them a thumbs up and thanking them for coming out to support the runners.
The finishing straight was something else, packed with a few thousand people cheering, a real moment to savour and enjoy, I must be honest I was milking it for at least 400mtrs, thumbs up, arms raised, fist pumps, anyone would have thought that I’d won the race. Another lesson that Warren and I had learnt is to run happy, we got this from Rob Young.
Whatever the experience, a good run, a bad run, a brutal run, enjoy it and enjoy the moment.
I crossed the line in 3:03:37. 3 mins 37 secs off my target time but 27 minutes taken off my marathon personal best.
Failure. I’d like to challenge that on behalf of anyone that has ever set a goal and fallen a little short. It’s a big step setting a challenge beyond where you have been before, it’s another huge step going for it, and coming up short is neither here nor there. It is about enjoying the process of being the best you.
We often say that what you learn through the process of being the best you often has more impact than hitting the end goal.
Failure, or rather the fear of failure, holds us all back from time to time. I’m starting to learn that it is not about success or failure, it really is down to pushing yourself further than you have been before and overcoming the dark moments.
We all have it in us to go further than we have gone before.
We all have it in us to be the best version of us.
We all have it in us to overcome the moments of doubt and pain.
Never give up.