This is my first time running against NCAA D1 and D2 women. All the local teams are here: KU, MU, SMS and UCM. I need to run by best, in hopes of moving on to a 4 year school on scholarship. We are D3 Junior College, but I am still fully confident I can hang with the UMKC and UCM women.
I fight to remain calm, as out of no where the other teams get into packs of at least 10-20 and start their pre-race chants. We only have 5 girls on our entire team… and only 2 are at the start line with me. I am the only one from our team running this event. We get together, and they wish me luck and let me know I’ll do well… just focus on my times… my race.
The gun goes off, and all the women take off in what seems to me as a sprint. Immediately, I know I am in a whole other world. By the first 100 meters I am in the back of the pack. By the first lap I am second to last… That is where I stayed. (see picture above.)
I ran most of that race alone... trailing the pack by 100 meters… with the last place girl 200 meters behind me. I got lapped by several of the girls. A couple of them lapped me twice.
After I finished, I cheered for the last place girl. I walked up to Coach and got my “Good job hitting your goal time” speech. I walked up to the girls and got the “It’s alright you were competing against larger schools” speech. I then dismissed myself to the bathroom, closed the stall door and sat down and cried silently… for a long time.
I thought to myself, “Well… this is it. You are done. There is no way you are getting a scholarship to a four year school. You just did your best and got killed.”
I just stayed there stuck with those thoughts, until I heard one of my teammates calling to check on me. Her voice snapped me out of it immediately. I called back to let her know I was alright. “Get up Maile.” I thought. “They elected you captain, and this is not what the captain of a team does.”
Everyone knew I was upset, but I made sure to let them know that I was fine. I still had next year to try again. But I didn't mean it. I wasn't fine. I was fighting a hip injury from high school basketball, and my feet had to be iced everyday to take down swelling in my toes. I was also up to 5 medications a day for my asthma. I feared I would not get any faster.
Those women who killed me in that race stuck in my mind. I replayed it over and over for weeks. A deep fear of failure settled in. The start line of a race has never been the same again. Even now in the gym, I catch myself scanning for others more athletic than me.
The lesson I learned from that race did not come until weeks later.
I was recognized as the 2000-2001 Most Valuable Player and Outstanding Cross Country/Track athlete of the year for my Jr College. I questioned my coach...as there were other girls on the team who ran faster than me at certain distances in track. I was also the number 2 runner in cross country. I did not see how I should be given such recognition, when I had lost some races to my fellow team mates.
The award was not solely based on the results of my races. It was primarily based on my value to the team and the hard work I had put in consistently. He pointed out that the number one runner for cross country had quit before track season. The girls had voted for me as their leader during fall cross country and I had done well throughout the school year. I had lived up to my role as Captain.
Early that following summer I got a phone call, out of the blue, from the former assistant track coach at my Jr College. He had secured a head coaching job at an NAIA college, and had scholarship spots available. I was moving on to a 4 year school (with tuition paid) a year early...after I had thought all hope was lost.
The drive for perfection in athletics and fitness is very strong. Though I no longer compete, I still get judged everyday. A trainer’s external appearance and physical performance can make or break a career. You can have all the knowledge in the world… but if you do not “look the part”... most people will not take you seriously. If you cannot outperform your clients, there will always be someone looking who passes judgement.
However, what I learned at 18 still holds true. The person I have become, by my experiences of failure, will always have more affect on my clients than my appearance and physical performance. I have learned to accept that there will always be someone “better” than me. I will not let someone else’s success damage my self-worth.
The person you become through your performance, is more important than the results of your performance.
Your self-worth is not your achievements. Your self-worth is the value you place on yourself. When you value yourself, and you appreciate the achievements of others rather than become threatened, you become stronger. As you become stronger, you elevate your self-worth.
When you place more value on yourself, you will be less likely to let another’s opinion of you determine how you feel about yourself.
Do not let fear of failure stop you from exercise. Do not let people who are in better shape than you determine your self-worth. They are on their own health and fitness journey.
Let them run their race...You keep focused on your race. They may be ahead of you... stronger than you... more dedicated to fitness than you. But that does not mean your strength and your dedication are any less important.
Focus on yourself and leave room to appreciate, or even be inspired by, those ahead of you. Every athlete has stories of failure. The greatest athletes overcome failure, by realizing it is only an experience that is crucial to growth.
All you have to do is start... run YOUR race... and finish.
Failure will come. You will grow stronger when you rise above your fear of it.