I accomplished my goal…and it was awful.

resilienceI’ve confessed before how much I suck at running. It’s true. I’m really not being modest. I’m slow. It hurts. It’s discouraging. And yet, last month I ran a marathon. Okay, that sounds better than it actually was. It’s true I did complete the 26.2-mile distance, and people have been incredibly kind to pat me on the back and tell me how awesome I am to have finished it. And yet, I’m not happy with my accomplishment at all.

My race day was awful. In the weeks leading up to the race, my stomach didn’t play nicely. I tapered my runs. I took my supplements. I watched my diet and my hydration. I did everything I knew to do in anticipation of my race on December 6th, but I still found myself in my doctor’s office on the afternoon of December 5th watching as he shook his head and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I did.

The first 15 miles of the race went well. I ran right along with my pacer. I cheered my fellow runners on. I thanked volunteers and hugged friends who’d come out to support our cause. I felt great. My energy level was good, and my spirits were high. I doing it. Mile 16 changed everything. At the end of 15, I stopped to go to the bathroom. My pacer ran ahead, but I wasn’t worried thought I could catch up with her. I never did.

Mile 16 was awful. My stomach started cramping, and my legs, feet, and lower back began to hurt. I had to stop for the bathroom again at the next water station. Honestly, if a friend hadn’t been there to encourage me to go on, I probably would have quit. I certainly felt like giving up. Miles 17-21 consisted of a little running, some walking, regular Porta-Potty stopping, and lots of grumbling. I expected to see my family at mile 19, but falling off pace meant missing their cheering faces, too. I trudged on.

I don’t remember much of the last five miles. I know I ran more than I walked, and I know every single step hurt. A lot. Thankfully, I didn’t have to stop at the toilets during the last few miles. There was nothing left in my system. I crossed the finish line in 5:42:48. I wasn’t happy or proud, but I was finished. I’d been looking forward to the race for months. I’d trained my body. I’d raised money for a great cause. I wanted to feel good about it all, but I didn’t. I just felt awful. Yes, I’d finished the marathon; I’d technically accomplished my goal. But, the experience didn’t met my expectations, and I’m a little sad and discouraged as a result.

Where does this leave me as a runner? I’m not sure yet, but I’m finding it tough to lace up my Brooks. What do you do when you’ve accomplished a goal, and it’s left you feeling bleh?

6 comments

  1. Jason Bedell

    Hi Phillip,

    My first marathon was terrible. I don’t remember the time exactly (may have blocked it out), but it was about 5:50. Everything went wrong. Thankfully, my second marathon took over an hour off my time and I finished in 4:45. Still hope to one day make it to the start line injury free, but we can improve. That always leaves room for hope. I’m sure the next one will go better. Good luck and thanks for your honesty.

    • Philip

      Thanks, Jason. I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to try again. I’ll definitely run more half marathons, but I haven’t decided about another full. The entitled side of me feels like a I deserve a good race day experience after training so hard, but I also know there are no guarantees. For now, I plan to focus on shorter runs and trying to improve my pace. Thanks for commenting. Any chance you’ll be at Educon next weekend?

  2. Lisa Lopez

    Goals are desires that we capture with our attention, desire, imagination, intellect, spirit (and fill in the rest of the adjectives that detail your own). I like to think of goals as interactive moments of co-creation with the universe (for more of this read “The Call” by David Spangler). When I let my mind control it entirely, the magic disappears and I push myself into ego first, no spirit. I no longer pursue goals that are void of spirit (also known as have to do’s should’s and to do’s). When I begin to sense the joy is leaving, I let go of all control and look for new opportunities. It is really, really hard to let go of what I think or people tell me they think needs to be done, but as I free myself of my own mental impositions I find I meet my goals in the most delightful unexpected and most importantly; stress free way. Persistence is not always synonymous with success, you absolutely have to have that 10% of creative genius (the one that cannot be controlled) to let as MLK would still say today January 19, 2015 “Let Freedom Reign”!

    • Philip

      Perhaps this post reads as my being really frustrated, and I certainly was frustrated by my race day. However, the whole experience of training for my marathon was mostly positive. I met a fantastic running group that helped me on my long runs. The pacers were amazing and incredibly supportive, and I learned a ton about myself. I was also inspired by the many people who supported me and the cause. The journey and process was a joy. The actual race disappointed, and I didn’t finish and have an immediate sense of personal accomplishment. In all honesty, I was just frustrated and mad. Over a month later, I’m getting better at viewing it from 50,000 feet, but I still wish I had a better race. Does that make sense? Thanks for commenting, Lisa.

  3. Sheila Stewart

    Glad you were able to blog and articulate about this, Philip. Thanks for sharing and I am sorry that it has left you feeling as your are. Brave of you to be so honest and write about it! Do you think you will continue to learn and benefit from what you went through? The “bleh” won’t seem so bleh ahead maybe?

    • Philip

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Sheila. As time goes by, I am gaining better perspective about it. I’m not ready to give up on running. As hard as it is, I am learning a great deal about myself and the sport as I go. many friends have suggested that if I’m frustrated I should just quit and move on to something else. However, it hasn’t been all bad at all. Perhaps, my writing about running should be more nuanced because my experience has been. Some days are fantastic, and I loved 90% of my runs with my training group. My race day was just a huge disappointment, but I think that’s true about many goals. Many times the journey is the better than the destination, and yet sometimes it’s hard to not focus too much on the destination. I guess I have another post to write about my experience…