My Journey To A Failed “Sub 9″ Comrades Marathon And Why Failure Is Awesome!

Comrades Marathon 2016 has come and gone.

I’ve been on a 2 week break from all physical activity. And yes, it is possible for us fitness fanatics to do no training at all – for 2 weeks!

And today, as I write this post, is the last day of the two week break.

The 2016 Comrades Marathon brought to an end a fascinating running season, one which ended with me failing to achieve my sub 9hr finish.

I was so confident I would achieve that sub 9hr target, that I mentioned it during an interview on a national radio station.

Despite my confidence, I failed on the day.

I manged to finish in a time of 9hrs 41 mins, missing my target time by 41 mins.

In this post, I want to highlight 10 reasons why failure is awesome.

By so doing, I hope I can help you begin to view failure differently and hopefully overcome periods of failure in your life.

1.Failure places you in the compnay of great individuals

Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball athlete the world has ever seen said the following: “I’ve missed more than 9 000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and I’ve missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Caroline Wostmann, two times Two Oceans Marathon winner and winner of the 2015 Comrades Marathon, was the clear favourite to win the 2016 down run.

On 29 May 2016, she was on track to do what no woman has ever done before – win both the Two Oceans Marathon and the Comrades Marathon, twice in succession.

She led and dominated the race for approximately 80 kms and led the 2nd placed Charne Bosman by 11 minutes. With 10 kms to go, she started cramping.  With under 2 kms to go, Charne took the lead to finish ahead of Wostmann.

In Caroline’s eyes, I’m pretty sure there were temporary feelings of devastation and failure as Charne passed her to take the lead.

When you fail, always remember that you are in the company of great people like Michael Jordan.

2. Failure teaches you to value time

Ask anyone who has ever missed the 12 hr cut off point by 1 second, how painful and devastating a feeling that brings.

After running for 12 hours, to get cut off by 1 second is disheartening.

At Comrades, there are numerous cut-off points – all time driven.

Most runners are chasing time targets, much like I was.

Be that as it may, we lose a lot of valuable time along the 89 km run.

At times, the time wasting is by default because you simply have no energy to run any quicker. On other occasions, the time wasting is by design.

Likewise in life, we procrastinate and waste a lot time. By failing, you learn how to take charge of your procrastination so you can better use of your time.

3. Failure shows that you have courage

Many people fear the Comrades Marathon. If that’s you, here are 15 reasons to help you overcome that fear.

Training for Comrades requires courage.

Getting to the starting line on race day requires courage.

Overcoming the numerous challenges during the race requires courage.

I’ve come to realize that you only fail when you attempt to do something difficult, significant and out of the ordinary.

When you fail, never forget the courage you’ve displayed. It’s a rare characteristic.

4. Failure helps you celebrate achievemnets within your failure

So you’ve failed. But, having failed, you failed doing something.

You probably achieved small milestones, that you would otherwise have never appreciated.

Identify your milestones and celebrate them.

On 29th May, even though I failed to finish within my targeted time, the below snapshot from my results speaks volumes:

Comrades_stats

From the above, these are my milestones:

  • I made it to the starting line (of the 18 597 athletes who qualified, only 16 808 made it to the starting line)
  • I finished (of the 16 808 that started, 14 431 finished)
  • I finished in the top 25% overall

This year was my second down run. And what you won’t see above is that my 9hrs 41 mins is an improvement of 55 mins from my 2013 finishing time of 10hrs 36 mins.

Although you’ve failed, find a way to identify and celebrate achievements within your failure.

5. Failure makes you work harder

It’s back to the drawing board for Comrades 2017. It’s an up run from Durban to PMB.

Trust me, I’ll be back with a bang.

It goes without saying that I’ll be increasing my training mileage (I kind of knew I was a bit short on mileage this year).

From January to race day, I covered 1 200 kms.

Next year, I’ll be covering a minimum of 1 600 kms.

If you’ve failed, it often speaks to the effort you’ve put in.

6. Failure builds humility in you

The 2016 Comrades Marathon had the most appropriate campaign and slogan: Izokuthoba.

Simply put, it means it will humble you.

As human beings, we all have the propensity to be arrogant.

And when we achieve great things – in accordance to our targets and plans – that arrogance usually comes to the fore and we start saying things like “I’m a self-made success story”.

And of course, I believe that’s rubbish because there’s no such thing as self-made success.

The Comrades Marathon will humble you.

Failure will humble you. And when you are humbled, you begin to appreciate the bigger picture of your failure and success stories.

7. Failure improves your analytical skills

So I was well on course for for my sub 9 when I reached the 59.04 km mark.

My time at the 59.04 km mark (Winston Park) was 6 hrs 01 mins.

So I had 2 hrs 59 mins to run 30 kms. That’s approximately 6 mins per km.

You will notice that my splits had dropped significantly between the 45.57 km mark (Drummond) and 59.04 km mark (Winston Park). I was okay with that drop because at the 60 km mark I was expecting to get some supplements so I could finish strong (sadly, that didn’t happen).

And, as is evident from my splits from the 60 km mark onwards, the wheels (or should I say legs) fell off. From that point on, my mental and physical state were simply not the same anymore.

When you fail, analyze information and data.

I am crazy about information, data and stats. I monitor and analyze everything I do and that’s exactly why I now publish monthly activity reports on this blog.

8. Failure helps you work smarter

Hard work alone often doesn’t cut it.

You need to also work smart.

So I alluded to the fact that when I got to the 60 km mark, I was expecting to get my supplements.

My running team, Diepkloof Athletics Club, had set up a station to give us refreshments and hand us supplements we had given them the previous day. Kuddos to them for co-ordinating that. And a massive shout out to them because the club is incredibly professional and supportive in that sense.

But, as fate would have it, for some strange reason, my supplements were not there when I arrived. They had forgotten them in another vehicle.

Boy was I livid when I got told that story. I must have waited 10 minutes as they searched frantically for my supplements. I eventually left. And needless to say, the rest of my run was daunting.

Next year, I have to come up with a new race day strategy. I have to find creative ways that will help me run smart.

In essence, I need to have full control over my entire run and that means I am handing NO supplements to anyone. Everything I will need, will be on me.

If you fail, find a way to work smarter!

9.Failure reveals your true support structure

Failure can very quickly result in loneliness.

Friends disappear.

Family begins to question whether you are really on the right track.

Your social media friends also find a way of voicing their expert opinions on something they often know nothing or very little about.

Before you know it, you are left naked and defenseless.

And that’s when the people who are authentically in support of your crazy ventures come to the party.

When you fail, appreciate and value the different types of characters who remain supportive.

10. Failure Builds your faith

Failure requires you to acknowledge that although we are called to put in the required effort to ensure success, there are elements in life we can’t control or predict.

You can do everything right when preparing for Comrades, but you can’t really predict what will ultimately happen on race day.

Do what you can. Be totally passionate and committed to everything you do. Do what you do with pride and excellence. But leave room for deviation and disappointment in areas you can’t control.

Personally, that’s where my relationship with God comes into play. Through prayer and trusting God, I allow his super-natural power to take over where my natural power ends.

Conclusion

Ultimately, failure is life’s greatest teacher.

It propels growth, in ways you could never explain if you’ve never failed.

The most important thing is that failure is temporary. It is one part of your journey as you make your way to success. Sadly, many people get stuck because they don’t view failure as temporary.

I hope the above 10 lessons will help you realize that failure is awesome.

Embrace it.

Learn from it.

And go out and give your goals and dreams another shot!

That way your life will be an ever successful journey.

As for me, I’ll be back at Comrades in 2017 to go and get my sub 9hr finish and bag that prestigious Bill Rowan medal.

God Bless!

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Leave A Reply (3 comments so far)


  1. Pieter
    1 year ago

    It is all about perspective. Thanks for a great post. If you are failing it means you are growing. Going outside your comfort zone. For me means I am on the right track. Its all about the mindset. If you have a growth mindset (see Carol Dweck’s book on the topic), you will grow from failure.


    • Peteni
      1 year ago

      It’s a pleasure Pieter. I will definitely read Carol’s book. Thanks for your comments. Much appreciates