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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Étouffée 5k - Or, "I failed"

Saturday morning I ran a 5k kind of last minute. Our busy lives, dealing with Alfred's passing, my new job, etc has distracted me from the running scene, and I missed out on two 5k's I could have run. Suddenly this one appeared. It isn't hosted by the track club so I didn't get the usual email notification, thus I didn't find out about it until last Wednesday.
I decided to run it. Remember, I had a goal to run a 5k under 21 minutes. Well, here was a 5k! I had not started to train to increase speed at all (or distance for that matter - I've been majorly slacking) but I am running out of 5k options and the heat is increasing, making my chances for speed even worse than they are naturally.
The medals are crawfish...cute.

Turns out that the race is really fun. It's hosted by the Junior League and had all kinds of post-race food and entertainment. The only problem is that 5ks are so short, who wants to eat jambalaya and have a beer at 8:30 am? Anyway, they did a great job putting the race on and a great job advertising, too. There was a big turn out, so I guess I was the only person who didn't know about it! The course is entirely in Audubon park, so it's very pretty (although you have to share the track with regular runners and walkers).
So. I ran the race. I started too far back and too slow; then I sped up and did a good job of checking my Garmin for pace, but after that I fell into pace with another runner for a mile and too late realized that he was gradually slowing (and so was I). I finished in 21:26, almost exactly my last 5k time. It was good enough for third female and first age group award, although I didn't stick around for awards.
I'm disappointed that I have not improved my 5k at all. I know you can't expect to get faster without actually doing the speedwork (duh), but I should at least be able to apply my experience from my two previous 5ks. I failed at my goal.
What I want to say about this is, it's ok to say out loud that you failed something. Failed is a "bad" word, I know.. But we can't always give ourselves a break or we'll never improve. I read a lot of articles and blogs and books that excuse failure. People declare a specific time goal, don't make it, and declare that their goal was unrealistic. Books tell you to set goals, but recommend you have A, B, and C goals. Stories end with, "I didn't finish the race, but I did run farther than I've ever run before!". Articles encourage a positive spin on a bad race: "Every finisher is a winner".
But let's face it. We're not winners all the time. We set goals because we think they're valuable to achieve. We shouldn't devalue those goals just because we didn't attain them. The goals are still valuable: WE fell short.
I failed to achieve my goal in Saturday's race. I probably failed because I didn't prepare. That means I need to work harder and try again. If I excuse this failure, and tell myself that I should be pleased with placing or content with a free bowl of jambalaya, I bet you the bank I'll never run a faster 5k. Instead I'm admitting and accepting a failure and using that failure to motivate myself to improve.
Do you find that we no longer like to admit when we fail? Am I making any sense at all? Or is this just the MSG from dinner talking?


  1. love this post! i have never liked the tiered, consolation prize goal system - a,b,c. i always tell myself, its ok to not reach your goal this time/race/day. thats not failure. failure is not even trying in the first place.

  2. I think it's ok to acccept your failure if you use it as a motivation tool, which it sounds like you're doing. I struggle with that myself - settting goals and dealing with disappointment. But, that's the point of a goal, if it weren't a challenge, what would be the point?

  3. For ME, I have a totally different view. I'm ALWAYS driven to improve...I almost have an "I'm never satisfied point of view." If I make a goal, I quickly set a new one, barely celebrating the last one. (this is a shame)

    BUT, I choose to find positives about each and every race, whether I achieved my goal or not.

    I RARELY consider myself a winner at most races, because more often than not, I miss my goal, but I can find something good in each and every race.

    I totally see your point, that the failure motivates you, and in some ways it does me too.

  4. I still don't call it a fail! You did a great job and did what you could on that day. doesn't mean you don't have the sub 21 in you.

    All that said--i'll admit that I can be hard on myself and say I failed at something. And you're right--it's not a bad word.

  5. Since the 5k isn't really "my race" I always think there's no way I can PR and am shocked when I do. With that distance, it's true that speed work (and a good warm up) makes a big difference. You didn't fail. You're one step closer to breaking that 21er. Each race teaches you something about yourself.

  6. 5K is a very hard distance for me. I tend to run a lot faster than I am capable of because it seems "short." Great job, that's way faster than I can even fathom running!

  7. i struggled with 5k's for a couple years, always running in the 21's. personally i don't think i did anymore speedwork recently vs back then (i kind of think i used to do more back then) but then all of a sudden i broke through. you will do it too!

  8. I think people are careful about the use of the word failure because it's kind of a harsh word. And in general, it seems like so many people have low self esteem these days, it kind of seems like a word that shouldn't be used very often... Mostly because sometimes you don't achieve your goal, but you might have learned something along the way or come closer to your goal. But to say you failed is a pretty negative word, so I think that's why I try not to use it... I wouldn't think of this race as a failure because as you said, you didn't train for it, so achieving the PR was somewhat unlikely... Better luck next time, though!!!

  9. I would dispute the fact that you "failed." Most people gauge success by time when there are so many other variables in place. For example, the course and the weather all play a part. Further, since you haven't trained to get faster, the fact you haven't lost a step is a victory. Don't worry, the goal will be met.

  10. I totally understand your point. You failed to achieve your goal. That's a fact. But, there is nothing wrong or bad with it, per se. You "Won" your a.g. Congrats on that.

    It all depends on how much meaning we put on the word fail. To me, the biggest fail would be not even trying. You won. And failed. I still you did a great job. I mean c'mon, you didn't even train for it.