Do you remember when Paula Radcliffe dropped out of the Olympic marathon in Greece?
Or when our own Sonia O`Sullivan crashed out of the 5,000 m final in the Atlanta Olympics?
Maybe you`ve your own favourite failure moments. Those critical points in a sporting hero or heroine`s careers when they`ve crashed in full view of the whole world. And, of course, in front of the world`s media.
How on earth do they bounce back from it all?
I thought of Sonia and Paula as a trotted along the beach last Monday. Fresh from my DNF half marathon (Yes, I Did Not Finish), the failure hit me like a sucker punch and I could barely breathe, never mind run.
Sure, a laugh out loud moment. I am, after all, not even a neighbourhood class athlete, never mind a world class one. And my failure to finish the race last Saturday amounted to me peeling away unnoticed from the two hour paced group.
There were no eager paparazzi jostling to get my pic. No British tourists ready to hoike me to my feet. No carefully worded press release on my condition.
But, by Monday, the gremlins were chewing away at my resolve. My mind was a jumble of thoughts. And none of them were good.
A woman at your age running. Ridiculous!
You`re not going to get any faster you know.
This is just a waste of time.
Wouldn`t it be much nicer to walk instead?
Can you imagine how much harder it would be if every naysayer in the world`s media were adding their opinions to that lot?
I didn`t have such big failure questions to answer, thankfully. And this week I am searching for ways to leave the failure behind.
So far, I`ve done some training every day. Left the Garmin behind. And either ran or cycled. Cross training has to be part of things for now because the back niggle is still at play.
It helps hugely of course that I am not an elite athlete. I won`t even merit a mention in the athletics pages of the local newspaper.Even my kids, who were initially mortified by athletic antics, don`t pay a blind bit of notice anymore.
So, I don`t have to bear the brunt of anyone`s expectations of me.
I suspect Sonia, Paula et al, had the services of a sports psychologist to help them deal with the stress and the failure. Psychology must be half the battle when it comes to training athletes. Keeping the confidence up. Keeping them focused on what they can do. Steeling them for the battles ahead.
As I struggled to run on the beach last Monday, I passed a local gaelic football team. A grand big bunch of young lads, their training session was headed up by a middle aged and cranky coach. (And no, those two qualities are not synonymous.)
He was giving them a pep talk.
Maybe he got a little louder for my benefit. I cannot be sure. But I suspect in his whatever coach training he had undertaken, he had skipped the module on sports` psychology.
“Ah c`mon lad, for f****sakes, yiz were f**kin no good at all. C`mon, we`ve a big f**kin match on f**kin Saturday and dem Grove lad are f**kin ready to give yiz all f**kin hell. Yizzar f**kin no good at all, lads. Look at ye, runnin around like a bunch of f**kin old wimmin.F**kin useless. Now, c`mon lads”
There was a look of gloom and despondency on the lads` faces.I doubt they felt either motivated or confident after that.
Since a lot of running is all in the head, I would reckon that psychology is an essential part of a coach`s skill set. And that insulting words can undermine the positive effects of good physical training.
I ran on, thankful that I only have to deal with my own inner critic.
It`s going to take a little while to quieten than inner critic down. It`s going to take a lot of self talk and a lot of really enjoyable runs to get me back on track.
I have no idea whether I can do that or not. But I`m going to have fun trying.
This evening`s run was the best by far since last Saturday`s failed half marathon. Three miles, and most of them with Teen Girl, who actually begged to come along.
The back niggle mysteriously vanished, and I almost got speedy at one particular point. So much so, that middle aged me disappeared and I became a Masai warrior charging across the African plains. And then, just as swiftly, I morphed into Sonia clipping along the inside lane, head and shoulders above the pack. Then, another guise, this time as Paula, head bobbing and wrapped in cool specs, great abs, great focus and wow! the speed! Watch her go!
It`s a pity everyone else only saw a Red Hen clucking and panting as she shuffled along the roadside verge. A middle aged, spectacularly slow shuffle at that.
If only they could see what goes on in her head….