By Randy Pierce
Battling hypothermia for several miles, I reached the crest of Heartbreak hill to face a cold blast of wind and an astounding deluge which was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Barely able to speak and shivering uncontrollably, Jose guided me to the medical tent for treatment and the end of our race. It was absolutely and unquestionably the right choice. Pushing perseverance any further raised the risks of serious medical consequences tremendously and an ambulance ride was the most likely result, not a heroic finish line. Making the right choice amidst the various pressures to continue is a clear success, yet failing to complete the goal is also a failure. How do I reconcile these realities?
While I can admittedly be harder on myself than is ideal, I’m always working to improve on this. I believe in sufficient accountability to understand what went awry and then as soon as possible to put all the energy into a focus forward mindset. The goal is to ensure the energy is applied to where it can have an actual positive change.
In this instance my accountability is simple: I’d trained as fully as my post-injury time allowed and was reasonably ready for a normal marathon experience. As weather reports indicated concern, we adjusted our gear dramatically to allow for better warmth and water protection beyond the limits of any prior marathon or long run experience. Usually the concern is that such choices create a risk of overheating, so there is a fine line. In hindsight, I had room to purchase a new thicker and warmer outer shell of wind and water protection, although realistically predicting this need and ensuring I would not have been in danger of overheating was unreasonable.
In short, my accountability is reasonably low unless it was a matter of mental toughness. My guide, the medical team, the ambulance-riding runner next to me in the medical tent, and my own mind knows this wasn’t the issue and any push for perseverance would have been a greater type of failure. When faced with a choice of types of failure, success is making the best possible choice in those moments.
Now the trick is to convince myself this is just a setback and to begin the planning necessary to bring a greater success from it. There are two stages for me in this process.
The first is the process of facing my shortcomings with the same confident sharing that I celebrate my successful achievements. They are all part of the growth for me personally and perhaps for those who might also choose to draw some insight from the experiences.
Secondly, I use the hunger for a more full success to fuel my training on the next event of a similar style. In this case my eyes are now on the prize of the May 20 Gate City Marathon in Nashua, NH. This race will be an opportunity to put out a stronger marathon performance as well as achieve a Boston Marathon qualifier.
That will be my opportunity to work towards crossing a finish line which eluded me this year and it will be doubly sweet for the proper perseverance and resiliency required to achieve it.