Failure… or is it?
I have just watched a movie Karl Meltzer on his successful FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Appalachian Trail. The movies called ‘Made To Be Broken!’
While watching the movie I thought of Karl’s previous failed attempts, the most recent being in 2014. Let’s get one thing straight, the Appalachian Trail is tough – very tough. The first time you try something and fail you can put it down to inexperience, bad planning, bad luck or whatever… but I say failure is good!
Life is full of failure and if we don’t learn how to pick ourselves up and try again, then our lives will not be complete.
Karl personified this tenacity. I respected him 100% when he said he would try again in 2016. I knew and more importantly, he knew, that should all things go well and he breaks the record, he was in for a miserable and tough time for 40+ days. Days that would send him to the edge, take him to a whole new place mentally and yes, may even break him.
So why, why go back?
As the closing credits rolled in, I sat watching the celebrations. Scott Jurek was there, David Horton, Karl Senior, Eric Belz and Karl’s wife, Cheryl. Karl’s triumph was all the sweeter through previous failures.
He’d nailed it!
My attention then turned to the Barkley. What a race unfolded in Tennessee. It was an epic and it may well go down in history as the most memorable. Not because John Kelly was the 15th finisher of the race but because Gary Robbins ‘failed!’
Notice here that I place ‘failure’ in commas – for me, Gary didn’t fail. He achieved a great deal, he just didn’t achieve his goal.
Just as John Kelly had failed on 2 previous occasions, he triumphed on a 3rd attempt and the victory was sweet.
Gary, of course, was left on the floor, a tired wreck facing demons.
Initially many of us had thought Gary had missed the record by 6-seconds! The reality was, as race director Laz pointed – Gary missed completion by 2-miles. At the final book (13 need to be located and a page is torn away to prove that you visited it) Gary removed the page but in the mist and through extreme tiredness, he navigated the wrong way and therefore did not complete the course as he should have – he finished from the wrong direction. Laz was clear to point out, had he been within the 60-hour cut-off it would still have been a DNF as he had not followed the specified route.
Gary confirmed it: “I did not finish The Barkley Marathons, and that is no one’s fault but my own. That one fatal error with just over two miles to go haunts me.”
This failure is a great example for us all.
Gary will be back. He will be fired up more than ever before. Will he achieve his goal in 2018? Who knows, that is part of the challenge. One thing I do know is that Gary will come back year-on-year until he does. When he finally touches the yellow gate with all book pages and within the 60-hours, that moment will last a lifetime and he will have the satisfaction of having worked his butt off for a goal.
Is it me but today does everyone want it easy?
Even schools are reluctant to run races because ‘everyone’ must be a winner… let’s get real folks, life is full of highs and lows, failure and success.
We want to make people happy, we want to wrap everyone in cotton wool and we want to say, ‘don’t worry, it will be ok!’
Some days my 100% and your 100% just won’t be good enough. Be happy with that. We all fall short. It’s not how you fall down, it’s how you pick yourself up.
For me, John Kelly and Karl Meltzer (amongst many others) should be applauded for their failures. For it is those failures that made them fight and succeed, just as Gary Robbins will do – one day!
Laz, thank you for creating something so tough that it takes all those who toe the line to the limit, to experience something so life-changing that they leave a new person. Finally, thank you for not bending, not waiving, not showing leniency in failure. Stick true to the values you hold – you and your race will produce more great stories and more heroes and yes, it will let all the world know that if we fail, at least we fail while daring greatly!’
As Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”