By Lee Anne Grace
Many people have failed before achieving their goals: • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
• Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before his first book was published.
• Lucille Ball was kicked out of her high school drama class because she was too shy.
I have also faced defeat dozens of times before experiencing success. Some time ago, repeated dieting failures convinced me my dream of being healthy and fit would never be achievable. My motivation and self-esteem became non-existent.
Over time, I finally grasped the important lesson of approaching healthy eating with patience and perseverance.
I recently experienced a mental sea change when I realized I had not applied lessons already learned to things where failure still haunted me.
As of late, my relationship with running has been very rocky. After some epic failures, I banished the dream of being a marathoner from my mind. The first marathon I ran, the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2010, was a great experience, but I hit the wall with five miles left to go. I was able to cross the finish line, but I wanted more. I wanted to finish a marathon strong, reflecting the inner strength residing in me.
After being sidelined from running through much of the spring and summer of 2011, I set my sights on another marathon, and my love affair with running resumed. The focus on training was intense, with my eyes never straying far from the goal. I ran hundreds of miles in training. I logged my nutritional intake to the calorie, stayed hydrated and got plenty of rest. My goals were conservative: to finish strong, and to post a faster finishing time than my first marathon.
On March 4 of this year I confidently toed the starting line of the New Orleans Marathon. Almost 21 miles into the race I passed the distance where I’d started to fall apart in the first marathon. I engaged in some premature self-congratulating, knowing I was on pace to finish well ahead of my first finishing time. That joy was short-lived. The difficulty I had completing the first marathon paled in comparison to the battle I faced to finish the last four miles of my second one. I was extremely ill, disoriented and became dehydrated. When I finally got myself to the finish line, my time was a full 20 minutes slower than my first marathon.
I felt completely and utterly defeated. The next day I tearfully swore off marathoning, the bitter pill of failure too difficult to swallow again. The bucket list of marathons I wanted to run before I died was unceremoniously tossed in the trash.
I spent the ensuing months attempting to mentally recreate myself as an occasional runner who had very few aspirations. I concluded my quest to become the runner I deeply desired to be had been foolhardy.
Several weeks ago I realized an important truth. The current defeated marathoner in me sounded a lot like somebody I used to know quite well. The me of years past had given up many times of conquering the morbid obesity robbing me of life itself. I looked deep within and found a source of strength to look my unhealthy eating squarely in the face, and found success.
Could I do it again? Could I look the marathon squarely in the face and refuse to fail?
Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before reaching success with his invention of the lightbulb. With just two marathons behind me, I have a long way to go before I have matched his pace of patience and perseverance.
Will I run more marathons? My answer to that question has changed. It is no longer a resounding no, but a strong, quiet yes. At the present time, I’m still regrouping and digging deep for a source of strength from within, instead of from external forces. More than likely, there will be more marathoning failures in my future. At some point, I hope to taste the sweetness of success, but there are no guarantees. I do know one thing for sure: I plan on having a blast in pursuit of the dream, because life is like that. It’s not about the finish line, but instead, the journey to get there.
What dreams have you discarded along the road of life? What are you waiting for? Go get ’em!
Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss for three years. She is the mother of two teenage daughters and enjoys running in her spare time.