How I Overcame Failing
Making Healthy Habits,  Running

How I Overcame Finishing LAST in Every Race

Principles for accomplishing ANY goal

Do you ever feel like all your hard work is just NOT paying off? Like you’re beating your head against the proverbial wall to achieve something, yet have nothing to show for it? 

That is exactly how I felt when I started running. My first year on the track team in high school, I finished dead last in every single race. Grueling practices and lung-burning exertion all the way to the finish line, only to see no improvement – to fail, letting down my team and myself.

Initially, I thought joining the track team would be a great way to become a runner. Until then, I had just casually jogged around our country roads a few times. The practices felt so hard – sprints, mile repeats (run as fast as you can for a mile!) – and long. We would run up to 8 miles during a practice, and my races were only 800 meters and 1 mile long! I felt over-prepared.

Still, each and every time I ran my events, whether the 800-meter or 1-mile race, I would get crushed by every other girl on the field. I honestly don’t know how my 15-year-old self managed to finish the season without quitting. 

That failure of a track season was my first experience as a runner. Now, over 25 years later, I’m still running. In fact, I love running – and, I’m faster than when I was in high school.

If at first you don’t succeed … keep going!

My personal running journey is long and varied – here is a chronological summary of my running life (if you’re interested). I’m breaking it up between pre-babies and post-babies, because that’s kind of how I divide my life now.  

Pre-Baby Running (I do what I want!)

  • Age 15: “Track Team Fail” Joined track team. Was the worst runner on the team, finishing every race in last place.
  • Age 17: “Cross Country – Practice Makes Better” After the traumatic track season, I took a break from running before joining the cross country team as a senior in high school. I ended the season as the next-to-slowest runner on our team. This was a huge success for me. I not only felt like I improved, but I got to run with the team at the state cross country meet!
  • Ages 18 – 22: “Casual Runner” In college, I continued to run for fun and  fitness, and (as my budget would allow), I ran a few “fun run” 5k and 10k races. 
  • Ages 22 – 24: “On the Slow Again” In graduate school, I met my future husband Chris, who ran cross country in college. I started running longer distances with him, which was completely demoralizing! He was so much faster than I was – I simply could not keep up! I remember being completely winded while he trotted along effortlessly in front of me.  
  • Age 25: “Long Distance Dreamin’” Chris’s love for long distance running motivated me to train for my first marathon. I found a training program online, followed it, and completed my first marathon. My finishing time was ~4 hours, 30 minutes.
  • 26 – 27: “Marathon Maven” I decided I wanted to qualify for Boston, which meant finishing a marathon in under 3 hours, 40 minutes. I found a detailed training program and followed it to the letter (I remember running mile repeats in the dark Wisconsin winter morning!). In 2006, I finished Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN in 3 hours, 38 minutes. Success!

Post-Baby Running (stroller-pushing, fit-it-in-whenever)

  • 28 – 36: “Baby Momma Jogger” Although I qualified for the Boston Marathon, I did not run it in 2007 because I was pregnant with our son. We got a single baby jogger, then a double jogger two years later when our daughter was born. Using baby joggers and treadmills, I continued to run when the kids were small. I loved that running (and pushing) made me feel strong.
  • 37 – now: “Peak Running” The kids are more independent, so I have more options for running (no more jogging stroller!). I started adding structured speed and hill work to my running, and as a result, I’m faster and stronger than I’ve ever been. I was the first female finisher (under 40 years old) in the last 50k I ran (2017) and set a 10k PR (personal record) last year. Running after 40 is possible! 

My running career started out as a series of demoralizing, last-place finishes. Through diligence and persistence, a desire to be in good physical condition, and many miles, I have become a pretty darned good runner. 

Friends and new acquaintances know me as a dedicated runner. I’ve even been called things like “fast” and “amazing athlete.” No one would guess that I started slow and insecure – basically a running failure! By patiently and purposefully building and pushing my ability over the years, I now find myself an accomplished and expert runner.

So, if you are discouraged in progress towards a goal, please know that persistence will pay off. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, but the difference between success and failure is persistence – don’t quit!!