Monday, October 21, 2013

We Learn

"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."
~ Johnny Cash 

This past Saturday morning, my high school cross country team raced at the Catholic Memorial invitational in Boston.  The day was gorgeous, perfect for a race.  We arrived early and headed off to walk the course.  The girls seemed to be in a good place mentally; both as a team and on an individual basis.  This is not always the case and I have learned to pause and appreciate it when it is.  Our performance at an invitational does not affect our overall position in the school league and won't change our record.  We do them because they help us learn to race in bigger crowds with more variables against teams who are stronger than us.  They take us out of our comfort zone and challenge us in new ways.  In a nutshell, they make us better.  My team did well, placing 3rd in a field of approximately 15 teams.  The girls were happy.  I was, too.  Most of them had pushed hard and run their best.  When I found them all after the race, their were many hugs and high fives.  We are a close and supportive group.  It is one of our greatest strengths.  As I read the expressions on their faces.....exhaustion, relief, excitement...I could predict the race reports they would eventually give me before they even came out.  Ah, but cross country is such a fickle sport, particularly with younger runners, and rarely does everyone on the team have a good race.  One of my runners, despite a decent performance, was both sad and angry about how her race had unfolded.  Her tears started to fall almost instantly.  She had not performed to her potential.  She had gotten a stitch early in the race.  Her legs were heavy, her body was off.  She'd had a really hard time hanging on.  "Coach", she said, "I don't get it".  Personally, I find this is one of the easiest situations to understand and the hardest to help a runner get through.  I have been there.  I was there last week.  Literally.  I am pretty sure I might have even said the exact same words to my own coach after my race..."I don't get it."  Oh, how I felt for her.  Because, in all honesty, we will never truly "get it" - neither of us.  It's all part of the process; that crazy, challenging, wonderful process that keeps us coming back to the line over and over again.  At the time, I knew there were few words that I could say to relieve her pain and frustration.  And I did not have that magical potion to help her snap out of it and move on.  But, I still tried.  I explained that not every race is going to be our best.  They are building blocks.  We learn from them.  We analyze them.  And then we have to let go.  Because there will always be another race and holding on to the last one isn't going to help anyone. "I know you are a good runner" I told her.  "I am not worried and you shouldn't be either.  I believe in you and your ability.  And nothing has changed.  You had a crappy race.  It sucks.  But you are still that great runner.  And you have to remember that."  She nodded, shrugged, and walked away with a heavy head.  My words might not have sunk in right then.  But I know she heard them and that's all that matters.  I have always wanted to be a coach.  One of the reasons is so that I can share my passion for running with others.  Another is to teach from my own experiences.  I am 38 years old.  I've run hundreds of races and will hopefully run many more.  And, despite my age, I am still learning and trying to be better.  Just like they are.

Listen to this:
I Can Hardly Make You Mine - Cults  


  1. oh boy did this post come at a good time! i had a HORRIBLE 1/2 this past weekend. i was so disappointed, that i had to hold back tears at the finish because i knew the finish line pictures were for everyone to see. my husband gave the same advice, but it sounds better from a runner (and coach!).

  2. One more step towards being better! I was right there with you 2 weeks ago. Hurts so good. Glad I could help. :)