Ways To Overcome Failing As An Athlete

the status quo revolutionFailing As An Athlete

Are you failing as an athlete or feel like your time has past? Failure doesn’t always feel that great at the time but later it is a vital tool in becoming successful. It is the overlooked gem that we do not appreciate enough.

Have you experienced failure in what you do? I am sure you have and I can relate with you. I wish folks knew how many times I have failed before I ever experienced a great race.

Running has taught me to handle failure in a greater light. We have to endure trials along the way to our goals.

It is one step short of impossible to achieve anything worthwhile without experiencing failure along the path to success.

The Most Successful People Have Failed 

Have you ever considered how many failures inventors have to endure before they get the perfect, finished product?

James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaners and those really jazzy hand dryers you see in airports and other businesses (have you seen them?), is someone I have always admired in how he handled failure before he finally produced his innovative cyclone technology.

Fast Magazine magazine did an outstanding interview with Dyson and what is thoughts we’re about failure in ‘failure doesn’t suck’.

I really believe in what he says,

we are taught to things the right way but if you want to discover something people haven’t, you must do things the wrong way – James Dyson

That is beautiful.

You have to be brave and committed to not let failure be the end of your aspirations.

The challenge is simple: Quitting when you hit the Dip is a bad idea. If the journey you started was worth doing, then quitting when you hit the Dip just wastes the time you’ve already invested. Quit in the Dip often enough and you’ll find yourself becoming a serial quitter, starting many things but accomplishing little. Simple: If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start. If you can embrace that simple rule, you’ll be a lot choosier about which journeys you start.” – Seth Godin

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I ran a 3.05 marathon at the 2010 Grandmas Marathon. Wait, Nathan, I thought you were a 2.19.35 marathoner, earned an Olympic Trials qualifier? I’d much rather share my failures for the simple fact that it gives people that feel they have no chance an opportunity to now see that if thus guy can do it, why can’t I? It is still, by far, the slowest time I have ever run and, hands down, the most humbling experience of my running career thus far. I was completely overtrained and jogging after 3 miles but I had to finish the race, perhaps I should have called the race early but my wife and I flew to beautiful Duluth, Minnesota for the race and had to finish. Bill Rodgers, the four-time winner of the Boston and New York City Marathon said,

the marathon can humble you

Bill was a multiple champion, even made the Olympic team in 1980 yet had a few competitive marathons where he did not finish. I wanted to include my marathon history on this site to prove to you, that regardless what your current time is, you can drop significant time. There are no limits but it is your choice to live in the fast lane or the slow lane. I truly believe the only limits we have in this sport, or anything for that matter, are the limits we place on ourselves. I bring up marathoning as only one of many examples of how failure in sport has made me a more determined to do bigger things in the future. Ever seen this?

Failure Motivates You

The best athletes in the world have had times of failure and it spans to every career field you can imagine. Failure is the one thing that should be motivating your every move and not to be feared.

Joel Runyon, founder of the Blog of Impossible Things, revolves a lot of his content around the so-called impossibilities we seem to set for ourselves. Have you ever failed at something and then ruled it out as being ‘impossible’ to achieve?

I think if your human that is a normal reaction but we are better than that. We have to get out of that mindset. I was seriously challenged in 2011 trying to train to break the 2012 US Olympic Trials Marathon standard time of 2.19.00.

I have a best of 2.19.35 but I experienced failure, despite undergoing the best training I have ever done in preparing, in 3 marathon attempts in 2011.

I like taking risks and have learned that if you do not let failure get the best of you, eventually, you will reach your end goal.

My two previous marathons prior to running my 2.19.35 best, were 2.40 and 2.51. How is that for failed attempts at breaking the 2.22.00 marathon barrier. Was it demoralizing to run so far off the goal time?

Yes, but I didn’t let it steal my enthusiasm and neither can you when you fail. Failure isn’t as bad as everyone sees it if you are motivated enough to view it in a different light.

Sometimes You Have To Chase Success

I flew to Vancouver, BC (Canada) in March of 2011 and ran 2.40.21 (hitting the half-marathon in 1.08.56), totally bombed the last half. I finished in 10th place. Think that wasn’t a small failure the last half?

I drove to Indianapolis a few months later. What happened? Failed again. I ran 2.26.42 at the Monumental Indianapolis Marathon to take 5th, again missing the standard I needed to qualify and run under the 2012 Olympic Trials standard of 2.19.00.

I than took a risk and tried again to run 2.19.00 a mere 4 weeks later at the California International Marathon (where I ran my PR of 2.19.35 in 2007) and ended up with 2.32.24.

These weren’t necessarily failures but I write about them just as an illustration that a missed goal doesn’t mean you will not achieve it down the road. I wasn’t going to live with the regret of not trying for that 2.19.00 a few short years ago.

You have to remain totally committed in the face of failures. They should not rule you but make your focus even more razor sharp.

Success is going from failure after failure and not losing enthusiasm – Winston Churchill

And you cannot stop once you reach your goal. What is the next adventure you want for yourself?

I have coached athletes who fail and who succeed. The difference between them and all the other athletes I have known who have let failure dictate their future joy in the sport is this.


A persistent individual is going to chase success into they find it. They will not let a setback or a failed attempt get in the way. I share my failures here to rundreamachieve because I feel they were vitally important for me having achieved the times I have run.

People need to know that even those that the general public see as ‘not normal’ or ‘talented’ have, too, suffered great losses on their way to success.

It takes some of the edge or sting off of something that we fear or intimidates us by reading that others understand how we feel and have experienced what we have. There have been many ups and downs so I understand how you feel completely when you begin to question if you still have what it takes.

You do, but you also have to have a mindset that will not be swayed from what it is trying to accomplish. People generally want things now.

They don’t want to wait weeks, months, years and decades for a goal. There is an enormous difference between wanting and doing.

Delayed Gratification

I get asked often as a 12-year active duty military member from other Soldiers

why can’t I seem to run faster

What steps need to be taken?

The general advice I share is the same advice I share with civilians and other people who read rundreamachieve.

How committed are you because if you’re not, you can’t possibly expect to achieve everything you were born to be in this sport.

If you in this part-time then plan on getting half-assed results.

I got involved with a company a little over 6 months ago because they have a vision that is long-term, that matters.

It attracted me to it because it is comprised of people that stick to their goals, that speak about health and helping people live healthier and wealthier.

They are outliers doing and thinking differently.

That is innovation.

It isn’t a short-term, somewhat interested, I’ll try when I have the time-type of team.

There is never the right time.

The light is always green with our choices. It is up to us if we choose to idle along.

People, as well as companies that are fully committed, will succeed.

If we let up, even for a second then we simply should’t involves ourselves in the struggle.

The committed will strive and thrive.

The doers are living differently then the wanters and the biggest gift we have in this life is the power to choose between the two.

When you consistently act and bombard the world with your efforts, interacting with the waves of others, stuff happens. And that stuff? Sidewalkers interpret it as luck, when it is nothing more than action engaged with better probabilities – MJ Demarco

You have limited time on this earth so you have to make the best of the time you have. There are ways to gain leverage of your time, most won’t seek alternatives.

The Safety Zone

There are people who want to run faster but aren’t willing to commit long enough to go from asking ‘why can’t I run faster’ to sharing with others how they did it.

Wanting and doing are two different things.

Here is the trick.

How can you find what others consider painful, unsafe, risky and look at is as pleasure.

I say that because most won’t.

There is that safety zone where things are comfortable and people, at no fault of their own, decide that is where they want to reside.

If you are an environment where people seek and desire that comfort zone do you think you will be truly challenged?

Breaking The Matrix

Doing hurts, wanting is the safe, secure method most follow. It is comfortable.

It is going to be challenging to become a better distance runner.

why consider network marketingYou’re not alone.

You have a team here at rundreamachieve and there are resources here that can help you break free of that safety zone that isn’t going to help you do the impossible.

We all have tough goals.

You may want to start a business, lose weight, or earn an Boston Marathon qualifier.

If these goals are to be attained, wanting isn’t enough.

The majority will want to travel but remain confined to their 5 days of servitude with 2 days of freedom.

Someone else controls their time, what they do, where they go.

The minority won’t accept that.

They want to seek alternatives to freeing up their time and live a more purposeful life.

Monday through Friday is prostituted for Saturday and Sunday. While people easily recognize and reject a negative 60% return on their money, they do it willingly with their time. -MJ Demarco

The majority will continue to think running mileage for mileage sake will yield them that goal time they have been seeking.

The old saying quality over quantity is true.

An athlete training smarter running 50 miles a week will accomplish more than the runner training at 140 miles a week caught up in the mileage game.

Success in running doesn’t come in the amount of miles you run in a week but by a greater percentage of miles run equal to or below the goal pace you want to run.

Breaking away from the majority mindset both in business and in running, requires that individual to think in a different way.

Is it any wonder we teach this mindset? Factories and managers don’t want spunk, or even innovation. They generally seek compliance. We rely on the disobedient few for innovation, but today, innovation is our only option.” – Seth Godin

Those that accept that a job is the only way to make living is what MJ Demarco, author of the best selling book, ‘Fastlane Millionaire’, calls the slowlane.

Well there is a slow lane in distance running as well.naysayer

It is chiming it up with the ladies and or fellas for a few weeks at your local running get-together and then quickly losing interest and moving on to other things.

It is going to the gym for a few weeks to get buff, lose weight or run faster on the treadmill and then not returning.

It takes unending commitment and the minority know that in order to be successful failure has to be a part of the process on the path to success.

Regardless what the endeavor you have to want it.

When you want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe, then you will be successful – Minister Eric Thomas

If you want to live life in the fastlane, as MJ Demarco calls it, you have to adopt fast lane principles and many of those are continually shared here at rundreamachieve.

Some will listen, most will move on and as Seth Godin says,

It’s not for them, it is for the one who is at the edge of their seat willing to listen to what you have to say

Go out and train hard, live the example so that others will break free from the brainwashed mindset and seek to live the life they dream about, athletically and professionally.

Wanting to remain the comfort zone is no longer accepted because the alternative is to do and think the way everyone else does.

You and I have one life. We absolutely must seek the knowledge that the minority search out or we’ll remain where we are.

One of my favorite quotes by Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors and entrepreneurs is this.

I don’t watch TV, I don’t go to meetings and I seek out things that scare me

The Solution To Overcoming Failing As An Athlete

Once you realize the error of your ways you will be all the more motivated to sway what has held its grip on you.

For years, I thought conducting 20 to 24 mile long runs at 6.30-7.00 mile pace would build the type of strength I needed to run under the 2.22.00 marathon barrier.

The motivation was there but the results weren’t.

You have to do the type of training that produces real results, not just do the type of training everyone else can easily do.

Easy long runs anyone can do, targeted, specific training is art and few are more willing to do it because it hurts, is uncomfortable, takes focus.

You have to make that choice for yourself.

Sub 2.22 was my goal for many years and after several years of trying different training methodologies I finally came up with the solution.

Whatever your goal may be, whether athletically or professionally, majority thinking or the way most people accept as the best way to go, isn’t always the most potent way for you to achieve success.

The solution was breaking away from the slow lane mindset that long slow distance is the way to go.

If you have a specific goal in mind and you want to sustain a certain pace for a given distance then you had better start adopting the fastlane mindset.

It involves pain, looks a lot like sweat and hard work and is uncomfortable.

If you can overcome the fear of that and make that commitment, you will begin to see success much quicker.

Does a self-employed person think the same way as someone who trades their time away for a 5 for 2 exchange?

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows. ~ Michael Landon

Not hardly.

Does a sub 3 hour marathoner know how to train differently then someone who is about to lace up for their first marathon?


The Morale of Failing As An Athlete

The point in writing all of this is sometimes we have to be subjected to failing to see what those at the top see, to experience the difference between majority and minority mindset.

Everyone who has become successful in any expertise didn’t get there without some setbacks.

Success as an athlete demands that you monitor your thoughts, that you innovate and create art by what you do and not let failure dictate what you will be capable of in the future.

I often think about a discussion Seth Godin once had with a journalist. Seth is one of the biggest entrepreneurial successes out there but has failed several times.

He is the founder of Squidoo and has his own blog.

He is also a sought after public speaker and best selling author.

Seth told the journalist about how some people simply don’t want to change.

They like where they are and if they do then it isn’t our jobs to try to change that.

Seth’s mentor was the famous motivational speaker and entrepreneur, Zig Ziglar.

Seth told the journalist a discussion he had with Zig about public speaking and how some people simply don’t care or want to listen to experience and advice that matters.

Godin said he asked Zig,

I flew thousands of miles to speak in front of these people and there is that guy in the front row asleep or the gal a few rows down with her arms crossed staring at me uninterested. I am pouring my heart out for these people and some aren’t listening.

What was Zig Ziglar’s response to Godin?

Its not for them, its for the lady next to him at the edge of her seat that is willing to hear what you have to say

I try to make people think when they read my posts here instead of just writing ‘How To’ posts that can be found on higher traffic site like runnersworld or runningtimes. What I have to say may not be for you but I hope some of it makes you think outside the box. I hope this resonates with you. I want to see you run faster, live healthier and wealthier but I can’t make you take action. It is entirely up to you and the opportunities have been discussed. Now it is time for you to go out and create art, to be the linchpin, to run up to your potential.

I’d rather live in regret of failure than in regret of never trying. ~ MJ DeMarco

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