Don’t Fear Failure

Embrace your failures… and then obliterate them.

On Saturday 19th of March, I once again took part in the Hardmoors 55, which if you don’t already know is a trail race covering the first half of the Cleveland Way. The direction taken this year was from Helmsley to Guisborough. The route offers gorgeous panoramic views of the Tees Valley from the top of a handful of hills, takes you through quaint countryside villages and market towns, as well as through expanses of the naturally beautiful North York Moor moorlands. That is, of course, if you actually manage to finish the race… which I didn’t.

The score is now: HM 55: 3 – Andy: 2

DSC_0069In a nutshell, I wasn’t fit enough because I hadn’t done enough training. I have plenty of reasons why I didn’t put in what I knew was the bare minimum required to finish, but at the end of the day, the result will always be the same. I failed. I DNF’d (Did Not Finish, in runner jargon) and was a failure on the day. That part I can live with, as I’ve been there before. But the part that I can’t live with, is that I didn’t give it my best shot. I was simply lazy. I’m never going to be a fast runner, but through trial and error I have learned how to complete a trail race a bit longer than 60 miles long, within the required time allowed. And this has always been my challenge, as well as my reward. On this occasion however, I just didn’t care. I wasn’t bothered about whether I won or lost – and that feels horrible to say out loud.

To be honest, I haven’t even sulked about my non-completion of the race, which would be my usual reaction. I had death-marched it from the 13 mile point at Sneck Yate, through to the 23 mile check point at Osmotherley village hall, and knew my race was pretty much ruined by then. I had no drive or desire to push on, my feet felt tortured, my legs were sapped of all power and were cramping badly, and I was losing time fast. Pulling out was the only sensible option I felt I had. And I’m ashamed to say that I grabbed it gladly.

But looking back on it now – I’m glad that I failed. I’m glad that I didn’t share in the post-race joy of conquering a worthy adversary with all the other runners, as I have done in the past. I think I needed to be beaten. Destroyed by the course and sent home as defeated. I need to feel useless. Because only through being written off and overlooked do I seem to spark up into meaningful action. I needed my fire to be totally drenched, so that I can grow cold enough to want to build a new fire again. Hotter and more fierce than the one before.

So I have decided to use this race as I have in the past. I will take an honest, brutal and very frank look at what went wrong. Then I will decide if I have reason enough to want to change it. And how badly. Because the reason for my failure had nothing to with running, but had everything to do with my life as a whole. Ultra running is simply a brilliant reflection of my life and its direction. You can bet that if my runs are going well, than so is my life – and vice versa.

I failed because of actions I chose not to do. I was my own worst enemy, and I know this, so I will not make any excuses. However, I am also totally guilty of letting life happen to me, of reacting to events that challenge me, instead of creating favourable events for myself. I am now choosing to accept full responsibility for my decisions and their consequences. To start fires, instead of having to put them out. Proactive instead of reactive. I feel really stupid having to confront myself like this, when I’m old and ugly enough to know better, but there you go…

Einstein is quoted as saying something along the lines of insanity being the repeating of the same things over and over again, hoping for different results. Jon Steele, the Hardmoors race director says ‘Time to stop doubting and start believing’… he is right.


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