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How To Turn Setbacks Into Moments Of Growth

Instead of giving up after a missed goal, look for an opportunity to grow as a runner and a person.

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Running Setbacks

Back in December I had one of those marathons that you hope only happen to you in those awful race-day dreams that you have leading up to a big race. My stomach was not cooperating and I walked for a good chunk of the last few miles. As I was crossing the finish line, I saw a time that was over 10 minutes slower than my goal—a goal that I have worked towards for six years of marathoning now. A time that I know I have in me but haven’t quite gotten there.

There have been many hurdles over the years as I have worked towards this goal—a divorce, single-parenting, GI problems, injuries and a few other. But let’s be honest, what runner doesn’t have major challenges as they are training and racing? As my coach says, “Shiz happens.” It happens to all of us but the direction that we go when the “shiz” happens is what matters.

There are so many setbacks that can happen in our running. We may miss our goals, get injured, lose motivation, deal with fatigue, go through tough life stuff that drains us mentally or feel like we are digressing or plateauing in our fitness.

We have two options when disappointments arise in life and in running. We can view these challenges that come our way as failures or as an opportunity to grow and to be stretched.

I’m reading an amazing book called, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. This book has an incredible section for runners, “Sports: The Mindset of A Champion.” I wanted to share a few quotes from the book about people that have a growth mindset.

“People with the growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower.”

“Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call.”

“For them it’s not about immediate perfection. It’s about learning something over time: confronting a challenge and making progress.”

“Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions.”

“People in the growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow.”

“Yet those people with the growth mindset were not labeling themselves and throwing up their hands. Even though they felt distressed, they were ready to take the risks, confront the challenges, and keep working at them.”

“In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.”

If you have a bad run or race you can either:

A)  Label yourself as a failure and see the setback as a roadblock that can’t be overcome.


B)  Let the setback motivate you to get back at it. See the setback as a time to grow, learn and stretch yourself. Keep reaching for our dreams and keep on working.

And to finish off today, two quotes from athletes that I really look up to:

Jackie Joyner-Kersey: “I derive just as much happiness from the process as from the results. I don’t mind losing as long as I see improvement or I feel I’ve done as well as I possibly could. If I lose, I just go back to the track and work some more.”

Mia Hamm: “After every game or practice, if you walk off the field knowing that you gave everything you had, you will always be a winner.”

I hope we can choose to grow when these setbacks hit us hard because they will come. But I think we can sure learn a lot from them.