Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | May 7, 2012

Fifty Shades of Failure

Stupid is as stupid does. As often as I’ve heard that line quoted, I never really understood it. Until, that is, I had a series of stupid moves at various races over the past month or so that made me wonder what happened to my brain cells.

First, and most embarrassingly, I went to the St Paddy’s 8k, and upon picking up my packet, noted they didn’t have bib chips. Instead, there were D-tags for timing. D-tags? What is this, 2008? Annoyed, I rushed to put the tag on my shoe and get to the start line. I ambitiously weaved my way just ahead of the eight-minute-mile pace group. Then, as I did some stretches, I looked down at my shoe and saw what I’d done. Yes, I had put the D-tag instructions on my shoe and threw the chip itself into the garbage. Officially, I’d be a DNS. Even if I PR-ed they’d be no record of it, anywhere. And really, what’s the point of having a good race result if it’s not posted on the internet? I moved back, away from the seven-minute-mile corral and instead looked around for the “Idiot” start corral.

A few weeks later, while warming up for a 10k, I turned on my Garmin, only to find I’d forgotten to charge the battery. Again. “Well,” I thought, “I’ll just have to calculate my pace in my head.” But as soon as I started running, I completely forgot the eight times table. Apparently I can either do simple math or run, but not both. At about the 4 mile mark, I thought I’d be able to pull off a PR. But then realized that I’d miscalculated – the only way I’d make it was if I put up 5 minute miles. And no matter how creative I got with the math, that wasn’t going to happen.

And then there was the Egg Shell Shuffle Half Marathon, where I was hoping to run under 1:50 so I could get a Chicago Marathon start corral. The problem is, I’d forgotten to train for the race. I’d gone on vacation two weeks earlier, and sure, I’d run every day. Like three miles a day. Hmm, what about those other 10-plus miles I’d have to cover? So along came race day, and I guess you could say my legs felt “fresh” for the first five miles. But then, one by one, each subsequent step killed me. By mile 8, I was ready to walk. By mile 10, I was ready to cry. I ended up with a time that was a full 13 minutes slower than I wanted.

I have no excuse. Well, no excuse other than the fact that I stupidly blew off training without thinking about the consequences. But surely I can come up with a better reason than that. I need something, even a fictitious excuse, that doesn’t make me feel like a complete loser. Something dramatic. Kidnapped by aliens? Slowed down while saving a toddler from drowning? Injured while nabbing a purse-snatcher who stole from a little old lady? Maybe something even more exciting?

So I decided to take a page from that book that everyone is talking about, and I came up with some good, if not plausible, reasons why I ran so slowly:

– My hands were tied. Literally. Made it hard to drink my Gatorade.
– I was locked in the Red Room of Pain and missed the start.
– My bunions were aggravated from wearing stilettos all day.
– I was abducted at the first water stop and forced to be a love slave.
– I forgot to take off my blindfolded from the night before and ran off course.
– It’s hard to get in a good training run when you’re chained up all the time.
And the best reason I was unable to run fast is:
– I decided I like getting beaten.


  1. I haven’t read the book, but from what I’ve heard, your “experiences” are right on – I guess the heroine is an athlete??

  2. When’s your next half? I suppose if I’m going to run Chicago I should try and do a sub 1:50 half to get out of the open corral. Perhaps you will inspire me

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