Thursday, February 28, 2013

Confronting the Royalty

Kara Goucher is American running royalty.  She is fast, well-sponsored, widely respected for being nice to average Joes, and a total babe. But she might not be helping people with their training.

I read her Tweet today and was sort of  pissed about it. Because that just isn't true.

All of us fail at some point and for someone like Kara to say otherwise is not fair to the mere mortals who look up to her and other elites.

In short, failure is what makes us stronger and faster. Failure also makes us better people.  For example, many of us, myself included, would love to qualify for Boston. Odds are I will never qualify for that race so I will live vicariously through my chums who are wicked fast and elites like Kara. However, this failure to qualify at my current marathon times pumps me up to train harder for the possibility to join my wicked fast chums in Hopkinton.

In recent years Kara has expressed her desire to win that race.  Now, if she doesn't win this year is that failure?  Under most definitions it would be.

But that is a good thing.

Her drive will be strengthened, her training adjusted.  If she just won every time, she wouldn't have to get better.  And that is fun, but there would be no fire.  American's like an underdog and love seeing our people win.  So when they fight back -- and have a sweet middle miles montage about their struggles -- we want to cheer harder and enjoy more.  Also, Nike prefers the comeback story line.

Yet that isn't the point. We all fail. No one wins everything. And in competitive running there is always going to be someone faster than you, someone who ran a smarter race, someone who wasn't going full speed that you beat because they didn't care to race, or you are going to need a Porto-potty really badly.

Perhaps she was trying to alter the general understanding of failure; that making the effort is enough to be considered a winner. And if she was, that is crap. 

Not being the best is part of life. The way we engage with our failures is more important than the way we celebrate our victories. Then again, I am simply a lowly court jester speaking truth to the powerful running royals.


Sasquatch in Public said...

a terrific observation. I totally agree.

Kara Goucher said...

It's me, Kara. I'm sorry that my tweet pissed you off today, totally not my intention.
I was little miss struggles this past January. I had a hard time getting back into shape and was starting to question if I could ever be who I was in the past.
February has been a turning point for me. This month I have started to do strong workouts and get that fire back. Things are turning around.
Today on the drive to my workout I got scared. I wondered if I was going to hit a wall, if I was going to lose the momentum that I have built over the past month. I made a decision in my car to not fail myself today. Not necessarily that I would run the best workout of my life, but that I would do all I was capable of to do myself justice in my workout.
During the workout I had times of doubt, but I remembered the decision I made on the drive over and my heart and body responded. I didn't have the best workout of my life, but I had a solid day and took another step forward.
Fear of failure holds you back. By facing it, you conquer it. Will I win the Boston Marathon on April 15th? History tells me that I won't. But I am a dreamer and a believer and I choose to keep faith in myself. Anything is possible.
Hope you can forgive me for a tweet that annoyed you. I appreciate your candor and I look forward to hearing from you again. -Kara Goucher

Donald C. Cutler said...


Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by and comment. And congratulations on hitting your stride again. Regardless of your tweet, I remain a huge fan.

I am pleased to know that even you struggle with getting through the hard times. Don't get me wrong, I don't wish you ill-will or bad training days, but it is good to know that even the best in the field deal with the same issues.

Now, I also believe that if you set your mind/heart/etc to doing something (the royal) you can achieve it. As you note the fear of failure is the only thing getting in your way...that and genetics. But on to the point that you were getting to in your comment: if you hold yourself back due to the potential for failure, you will never succeed.

Speaking of which, if you let history get in your way, you won't be able to write the next kick ass in Boston. I will be ringing my cow bell for you and the rest of Team USA from San Francisco.