OK … I get it. Triathletes, runners … we love getting people into the sport. We support each other, coach each other, offer advice even when unwanted. We are here for each other. Struggling in a race? I will run out to meet you and help you get through it. It’s who we are, it’s what we are made of. And that’s all well and good.
At some point, however, reality needs to step in and you must have someone you trust to tell you the truth.
Unlike most social media, running groups and triathlon groups tend to be on the positive side. There is very rare belittling of people who go out and attempt races and not make it, or not even start at all. The majority of comments will be positive and assuring, telling them that it was “just a bad day”, they you are “a bad ass just for being out there”. It is needed I agree, but the opposite is also needed. You need a truth teller.
Want to see a running group on Facebook go absolutely bat crap crazy? Find a thread where someone dnf’ed a race and just make a side comment about them needing to revisit how they train, that perhaps they bit off more than they were ready for and need to look into that before attempting the race again.
Then stand back …
I understand that showing people support and staying positive is needed. Hell, I have needed it quite a bit myself. But you MUST also have a person, or people, that will tell you the truth. They need to be people you trust care about you and what you’re doing, because a random truth from a stranger on the internet is not going to be helpful. You will get all the support you need from these groups, so you won’t be wanting of it. You will be inundated with stories that start like “That happened to me too at xxx race”, so one or two reality checks won’t hurt you.
And to be honest if they discourage you to the point you want to quit, well, perhaps your heart was never really in it to begin with.
This goes for most walks in life as well. If it wasn’t for Bobby Kennedy telling his brother John, the President of the United States, in 1962 that launching an attack on the Soviet Union, which all of his military advisors were telling him to do, was a bad idea, we would have been in World War III. John trusted his brother, and it was the right call. Most mistakes made in the government can be traced to the fact that whoever was in office at the time didn’t have someone to tell them “no”.
I have struggled with this. Not in being told “no” or being called out, because, again depending on the source, I think I take input, even criticism, pretty well, especially if it is truth. No, I struggle with who to be truthful to. I have gotten into … situations because I have been honest with people who probably were not ready for the honesty, or at least were not ready to hear it from me. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, or follow me on Facebook in the past, you have seen these happen (though not in a while … I have learned). I used to run with a person that constantly complained of gastric distress. Every time they ran it was an issue, and I watched them for a while, downing gel packs then sprinting for bathrooms 30 minutes later. So I suggested that maybe they need to knock off eating all of the sugar and see if that helped.
Holy crap … you’d think I shot their mother.
Same with people complaining of not being able to lose weight and then checking in, on social media of course, at various fast food places.
“Maybe you’d lose weight if you stopped going to Cherry Berry three times a week”
KaBoom … the grenade explodes …
I was naive to think that this for of “tough love” would be OK, but it wasn’t, and I have since curbed my habit of doing that. At least in social media (I still will do it in person or in private conversations). Now, if someone mentions to me that they are heading out to eat I’ll respond “eat clean” and leave it at that. I figure, at that point, I put it in their head’s at least and now it is up to them.
If you are honest with yourself, about your actions, your training, what you have done and what you have not done, then any criticism shouldn’t come as a surprise. You know if you have not trained enough for the half marathon, so when you DNF it shouldn’t come as a shock, nor should you get angry when your coach, or your friends, tell you that your training sucked. I don’t mind my coach, Meghan, saying to me “well, your training sucked for the past three months John, what did you expect to happen? a Personal Best?”
Note: Meghan has NEVER said that to me, but she has the potential to say it I think. 🙂
Look, no one likes being told they suck, even when they do. And most people know when they suck, so having it pointed out to you isn’t the most fun thing in the world. AND, like most everything, we are all different. Maybe I take it differently because I was past military and played football where this kind of feedback is the norm? I think there is something to that, actually. If someone spent their whole life not playing sports and not in the military, I am betting this type of in-your-face truth-telling can be …. jarring. But I believe it is needed.
So my advice? Find someone you trust that will tell you the truth, the open, sometimes hurtful, truth. We can all fool ourselves into believing that it’s OK to finish last. And let me be clear here, it IS OK to be last if you have given everything you can in training and in the race. Not everyone can be the winner … someone has to be last, but if you’ve given 80% in training and 75% during the race, accept your finish as a result of that preparation and move on. Accepting platitudes for work not earned doesn’t sit well with me personally. Andrew did not accept his race medal at Disney because he did not finish the race. He felt he didn’t earn the medal, and he was right. I did not finish my marathon this year either, and that medal, though I did take it, does not sit on my wall. It was given to my grand-daughter.
We are surrounded by “Yes Men”. We still need the “No Guy”.