10 Lessons I learned from my Leadville 100 failure

10 Lessons I learned from my Leadville 100 failure

10 Lessons I learned from my Leadville 100 failure 480 640 Matt Kenney

As many of you know, I competed in my first 100-mile race in August, the Leadville 100.  I entered the lottery for the in December race (yes, a lot of people WANT to do this!) and began training before I was officially accepted into the race in January.  In all, I trained hard for 8 months to prepare.  I gave it everything I had and left no details to chance, I was ready.  But in the end, I failed.  I was not fast enough and missed a cutoff based on my time.  So, after 8 months of training and 14 straight hours of running, my race was over.  It hurt and it bothered me.  The good news though is that it taught me some incredible life lessons that 4 months later I am now ready to share.  I hope you’ll find them meaningful.

  1. Either win or fail and learn. In terms of my goal for the race, I was unsuccessful.  However, I gained invaluable experience within the race itself as well as training leading up to the race.  The journey strengthened me physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  2. Go all in. Only about 50% of people finish the Leadville 100, so from the start I was either going to publicly triumph or fail.  In the end it did not all go as I planned.  However, I believe there is honor in giving a complete effort, taking your shot and missing but no honor in being afraid to even try.
  3. Grow flowers, not weeds. Have you ever noticed that you need to be diligent to get flowers to bloom but that weeds will grow through concrete with no effort?  Your mindset is the same – negative thoughts grow easily so you need to focus on manifesting the positive ones that fuel you.  25 miles into the race I came up next to another runner and we began to chat.  Everything he had to say was negative and as I listened (trying to be polite), I felt my internal fire decreasing.  He was in mid-sentence when I literally ran away from him.  You can’t allow negative thoughts to halt your progress.
  4. Look for inspiration everywhere. There was a small aid station at about mile 36 to which I arrived feeling horrible, thirsty and with legs seemingly attached to cinder blocks.  As I stood there trying to regain some energy, I realized I had 4 miles to get to the next aid station and at my current pace would not make it in the allotted time.  As this was happening, a woman ran into the aid station excited and pumped up.  She got some fluids and ran off, but her enthusiasm inspired me.  I decided then that I would try and keep up with her no matter how badly I was hurting.  For the next 4 miles I ran as hard as I ever have, made up a ton of time and made the cutoff with time to spare.  I passed that woman with about a half mile to go and she cheered me on.  I told her that she inspired me and saved my race and I could tell that made her extremely proud.
  5. Cherish the good stuff. At mile 40 there is an aid station called Twin Lakes that feels like a huge party filled with hundreds of loud, cheering fans all routing on the runners.  As I came over the top of a steep hill, I saw my wife and oldest son waiting for me (I was an hour behind schedule at this point) and they looked so excited!  After fueling up I walked with my son through a sea of people yelling out my number, cheering for me and high fiving me every five feet.  I could tell my son thought this was cool and that he was proud.  I will fondly remember that forever.
  6. Set an example you’re proud of. At this same aid station, I arrived really hurting.  I had to eat and drink while on my knees due to the pain I was in; all while my son watched.  Thankfully an amazing volunteer got me upright and on my way.  During the time this took, I personally saw and heard probably 10 people give up and quit.  As I walked away I put my arm around my son and told him “It hasn’t gone the way I expected, I’m in a ton of pain and it’s probably going to get worse but I want you to remember that we never quit.  I will give this everything I have and because of that I can live with the outcome, but I couldn’t live with quitting.”  Having my son see me so physically destroyed but still trudging forward provided a real-life example of something I’d told him many times.
  7. Own it. After running for half a day, I missed my cutoff time by less than 10 minutes and my race was over.  When I tell people that, many feel like I should have been allowed to continue or that it wasn’t fair to make me stop.  As much as I would have loved to keep running, I don’t feel I should have been allowed to.  There was a standard set forth and I didn’t meet it.  Accepting personal responsibility for ourselves and not making excuses or blaming others is good practice for everything.
  8. Remember to smile and laugh. Something I’ve always noticed during my toughest races is that as bad we all feel, we all still talk about how cool it is, make jokes and laugh.  This really helps us to keep moving forward.  I think in life we often get wrapped up in our problems and the simple act of smiling or laughing at ourselves can put things back in perspective and help us march on.
  9. Keep your promises. After mile 50 in the race you are allowed “pacers” which means you can have 1 person at a time running with you.  My 12-year-old son was supposed to pace me from mile 87 to the end of the race but unfortunately, I never got that far.  After the race, he and I were sitting in my car and I was feeling ashamed.  He looked over at me and said “We said we’d run 13 miles together.  Will you run those 13 miles with me tomorrow?”  The following morning we did, and I felt like we’d honored the promise we’d made to each other.
  10. Take a loss without losing faith. After my race I was feeling down and told myself I was done attempting runs this long.  However, shortly thereafter I began to realize that I still wanted to complete my goal and just because I didn’t succeed this time didn’t mean that I never could.  Within 48 hours after the end of my race I was already signed up for another 100-mile race in March because I believed in myself enough to keep going after my goal.

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