Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

A Little Failure Can Be Healthy Sometimes

For those of you that race, think back to your most memorable races. I don’t mean the ones where you just have flashes — the crowd in the start corral, a hug at the end, and so on. I mean the ones where you swear you remember every last step, every micro-event…the ones where you really learned something about yourself as a runner.

Let me guess…the races you remember like that were total crap. Probably some of the lowest moments in your own personal history of sport. I know I’ve beat this into the ground, but I, for example, will never forget my near meltdown in the late miles of the 2009 San Antonio Marathon. The Cytomax that was like a sugary, warmed-over dose of Ipecac syrup. And please Lord, someday, let me forget those 30 minutes in the finish line Port-A-Potty.

I learned a lot of things that day. That race was a real-world lesson in all those things the running magazines tell you:

  • Never ingest something on race day that you haven’t tried in training.
  • Always err on the side of not dressing warmly enough.
  • Nothing can prepare you for a marathon except putting in the miles in training.
  • Don’t expect there to be toilet paper.

And I honestly believe I remember it so clearly because of evolution. We humans are hard-wired to focus on the negative.

This seems to hold true in every aspect of our lives. Think to your last performance review at work. Do you remember the 35 “you’re doing great!” comments on it, or the 2 “areas for improvement”? And I think I once read an article about relationships that said it takes 5 positive comments to make up for every negative comment you make to your partner.

Why? Because that’s how we learn. We learn from scary experiences. We learn from failure. We learn because we sure don’t want to go through that again! (I think it goes back to caveman fight-or-flight stuff. It behooves you to remember that one time Urg tried to club you.)

I recently had a non-running-related mini-failure.

Here’s the back story: Even before Handsome J and I were engaged, a friend was trying to get me to read this wedding blog: A Practical Wedding. I skimmed it a few times, but being the type to get completely overwhelmed by the whole idea of planning a wedding, that was about the extent of our relationship.

Then, shortly before Thanksgiving, they advertised a contest. A chance for one person, who is getting married in late 2012, to guest blog for them once a month as an intern. It’s an unpaid gig, but they also offered the opportunity to learn about the blogging business. I sure know how to talk about myself in writing, but I have no idea how to make a business out of the whole thing. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

The application was fairly extensive. A resume, a cover letter, two sample blog posts, a link to your Web site, your Twitter handle, etc., etc.

I hadn’t pulled together that much information since I applied to my real-world job…6 years ago. This was an undertaking. I spent probably 6 hours just working on crafting the perfect, “This is me, I’m so funny and interesting, but I also have a heart” blog posts. Then there was the hour of trying to update a resume I haven’t revisited in years. Finally the cover letter. Which I wrote in a PDF and then agonized over whether the email I used to submit everything was supposed to actually be the cover letter.

Despite my best intentions of staying calm, I got really into this application. To the point where I spent the run after I submitted it fantasizing about my impending rise to fame.

And then…nothing.

I haven’t heard a thing. Given that they said they’d be making offers by Christmas, I think it’s pretty safe to say my multiple hours of work ended up in someone’s Recycle Bin. (Or Trash, if they have a Mac. Which they probably do because they seem cool like that.)

It’s been a minor identity crisis. After 6 years of only 1-2 “areas for improvement” per review, and after creating a blog that a few people actually read, I now have to remember what it’s like to fail. To be rejected. The University of Virginia, Duke, and A Practical Wedding. Three venues that just didn’t want me.

I wish I could say I handled this like a grown-up, but instead I stopped blogging completely, convinced that I had nothing of interest to offer. Like a bad run, this rejection blew itself completely out of proportion. “I couldn’t make it up that hill and therefore I am a FAILURE AT RUNNING.”

Sound familiar?

Luckily, time has brought its usual wisdom. Have I ever actually stopped running because of a bad race? Barring injury, no, and even the injuries were temporary. Instead, I learned from those experiences and used them to make myself a better runner.

So, now I have to figure out how this experience can make me a better writer. I’ve thought of a few. For one, it’s reminded me that for writers, rejection is a part of life. If I ever do want to go beyond my own little corner of the internet, I’ll just have to prepare myself for that. For another, it’s shown me that I’ve found my niche. Sure, not everyone wants to read about running, but I LOVE to write about running. And I don’t HAVE to branch out just because maybe there are some people out there who are tired of hearing it.

Finally, this experience has had one truly concrete benefit — I’m finally on Twitter!

I may be relatively tech-savvy, but I am most definitely a late adopter, and Twitter was something I thought I would never figure out. # this and @ that? Kids these days…

But yes, it’s true. I caved. And…it’s kind of fun. Maybe even a chance to “build my brand” as that girl on the internet who’s always talking about running? Who knows. Today all I “tweeted” about was the gigantic cockroach in the showers at work. But hey, that IS a part of running.

So, if you just can’t get enough of the Running Fiesta goodness, you can now follow my less-verbose musings as @RunFiestaGal

(Don’t worry, I didn’t take a picture of the roach.)

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This entry was posted on December 20, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
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