The Contender


“With so much failure in the air, you can’t help but breathe it in.  Don’t inhale.  Don’t get fooled by the stats.  Other people’s failures are just that: other people’s failures.” Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, Rework

A few years ago I was preparing for my first marathon. I have always loved exercise; running, dance, intense boot camp sessions. I am most certainly a competitor when it comes to pushing myself past what I think is possible, so a marathon was right up my alley!  When I started long distance running—well actually I never set out to be a long distance runner, I just kept adding a mile at a time—I would run to feel free. I would run to free my mind, my spirit, and let my desires, which were deeply buried within me, come to the surface.  Over time, running gave me confidence and a sense of purpose.

When I set the goal of running a marathon, I needed to know that I could do it no matter what anyone said.  Ask any marathon runner, or even someone who could never imagine running one, this takes time, endurance and commitment.  Training is essential.  You can’t just show up on the day and expect to complete all 26.2 miles (and yes, those point-2 miles make all the difference for any marathon runner). 

When I was younger, and in the midst of struggling with anorexia, I took to running.  I would run, and run, and run, and run.  I would run to the point where I was too exhausted to think, and too exhausted to feel.  I was always running something off.  I was always running away from something; running in an attempt to find something, lose something – I was always running.

My decision to run a marathon was an entirely new approach to exercise and pushing my limits.  This time I was healthy – I had overcome anorexia; I had had my first child, David; and I was in much better shape mentally, physically and emotionally.  I wanted to see if I could accomplish whatever I put my blood, sweat and tears into – to make a commitment and see it through.  I wanted to see how far I could push myself.  And, if I’m honest, I wanted to negate the nay-sayers, and this was my way to do it. I could run from anything, or run toward anything, with only my voice in my head, no one else’s. Sometimes the best kind of motivation comes from those who say you can’t do it!

A close friend of mine, who had run many marathons, put together a training schedule for me. It mapped out how many miles a week I would need to run, how to build up my mileage to prepare myself for the 26.2 miles… It was like a run-by-numbers. She made a chart of the difficulties, the highs and lows, the dos and don’ts, and according to her when I could expect “hit the wall”. This would come up every now and again at specific distances and intervals.

She went into great detail of what “hitting the wall” would feel like… when you think you’re running, but you actually aren’t moving forward, at all. You physically feel it impossible to move and will start to cry. The adamant “HIT THE WALL” became hard to ignore; she said that everyone hits it on a marathon. It was very thoughtful of her to create this chart for me, but what I didn’t appreciate were the negative comments and doubt that were sprinkled throughout. At some point it seemed to fuel me – just because it had been her struggle, her failing, did not necessarily mean that it would or had to be mine.  In fact, it wasn’t at all.

I have kept this training schedule by my bedside for many years as a reminder to never let someone else’s doubts—on any level, even on a subconscious level—ever make me doubt myself. I have my OWN voice to tackle; I don’t need someone else’s.

Looking back over the training schedule, I realize that more often than not people are so influenced by others’ failures.  People tend to not go ahead with an idea, or a project, or a marathon (let’s say) because they are told that failure is eminent.  We’re told that we need to fail in order to be successful.  We are also told that learning from others’ mistakes is helpful.  Well, I want to say that I think that’s completely overrated. Your mistakes will be your mistakes, and their mistakes will be theirs.  Who says we can’t just simply succeed?  Why on Earth not? You have one life to live – YOURS, no one else’s.  You won’t hit the wall; you’ll pummel right through it.  Just like I did.


  1. Do you have something you wish to achieve that you are reluctant to start?
  2. Are you reluctant because people say it will be impossible?
  3. Think about this: that may have been the case for them, not YOU.

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