I really enjoyed tuning into the London Marathon broadcast on the telly on Sunday. I felt completely captivated as the excitement and the drama unfolded in front of my eyes, especially in the women’s elite race – Jemima Sumgong managed to win, despite suffering a very nasty fall earlier as she was tripped by a fellow competitor as they were approaching the water station; and then later on she came very close to colliding with an overly zealous spectator who had invaded the course (and had to be tackled by security).
After finishing the race, Jemima told the reporters that the fall affected her so badly that at one point she was unsure if she could continue. However, as we could see, despite feeling dazed and having cuts on her head and shoulder, she pulled herself back up quickly and – after dabbing her forehead – cut to the chase to pull back the gap to the leading pack. More surprisingly, when she finally caught up, she launched an attack and went on to win the race convincingly, leaving her rivals well behind her.
I love running but I also love and feel inspired by watching other people run. Each run is unique and tells a different story. Running can teach us so much wisdom and the lessons we learn through running can be easily applied to all walks of life. This was no different on Sunday – Jemima’s strong finish despite all odds has been truly an awe-inspiring life lesson in perseverance and resilience.
Like Jemima, all of us have or will face different kinds of challenges at some point in our lives, often when the stakes are very high. We get pushed and even fall sometimes and take a hit, albeit not necessarily in the physical sense, but wounds are wounds, whether emotional or physical – they do hurt and they really challenge our resilience. Ultimately, the way that we face and respond to such situations can mean the difference between thriving (winning) and collapsing. What defines us is how well we rise after falling. The emphasis is on what you do after falling, and not the fall itself.
Obviously, I can never be certain what went through Jemima’s head whilst she was going through one of her life-defining times, but here is my take on how you can handle hits and failures when life knocks you down to the ground, so that you can recover fully and win your game, taking inspiration from the mindset of elite athletes like her:-
(1) Do not be afraid to fall. Falling is part of life, especially if you are willing to step out there to pursue your dreams and aspirations (whatever they may be); being afraid to fall can limit your potential and what you may achieve.
(2) Do not give up, even if things look very grim. Thomas Edison said “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
(3) Reframe the idea of taking a hit as an opportunity to do something in a different way or something completely different. Try to look at life like photography – we use negatives to develop a positive picture. Thomas Edison also said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
(4) Have faith in all the hard work you have put in already and draw on all the resources you have. Edith Grotberg, a researcher with the International Resilience Project in The Netherlands suggests that we can draw resilience from three lines of thought “I Have, I Am and I Can”:-
- I HAVE (these are external supports that are provided): strong relationships, structure, rules at home, role models etc.
- I AM (these are inner strengths that can be developed): a person who has hope and faith, cares about others, is proud of myself etc.
- I CAN (all interpersonal and problem-solving skills that are acquired): communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperament of others, seek good relationships etc.
(5) Stay positive – As I said before, there is opportunity in every fall, if you are willing to rise to the challenge and try again or try something else. Falling is almost a prerequisite for what is yet to come – this could open up some new and exciting (and perhaps even unexpected) things in your life!
(6) Reflect and re-evaluate what went wrong, figure out why it happened. Draft an action plan using these learnings to prevent falling again. William Saroyan, American award winning dramatist and author said that “Good people are good because they come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success”.
(7) Visualise how rising will feel like. Mental imagery is an extremely powerful tool used by many elite athletes and successful people. When Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the process of transitioning his body building career into acting and politics, he said he employed the following mental trick: “It’s the same process I used in body building. What you do is create a vision of who you want to be – and then live that picture as if it were already true”. Oprah Winfrey who pulled herself up from poverty to become a media mogul and one of the wealthiest women in the world said “Create the highest, grandest vision for your life, because you become what you believe.”
(8) Keep moving forward, no matter what. Running legend Amby Burfoot said that “I have learned that there is no failure in running, or in life, as long as you keep moving. It’s not about speed and gold medals. It’s about refusing to be stopped. (…) It’s what runners do. We keep on keeping on.”
Who has inspired you during this year’s London Marathon?
Have you got any other tips about overcoming hits and falls in life?
What is the best lesson running (or any other forms of physical training) has taught you so far?