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Gerry Duffy: Make sure you learn from those mistakes


Runners take part in the Connemara marathon

Runners take part in the Connemara marathon

Runners take part in the Connemara marathon

Gerry Duffy

It was just before 2pm on Sunday April 7. Even as I crossed the finish line, I knew I had given it everything. Every energy particle had been evicted to help secure a personal best in the Connemarathon. Not an ounce of effort was left in my 5 foot 11 inch frame.

Twelve days later I made a mistake.

Back in Connemara, close to five hours of running had been expended, so 12 days later (April 19) I was still recovering. On my radar though was an even longer run on May 17, all of which was building me towards my ultimate ambition of 2014; the 'Connemara 100 Mile', an ultra-marathon event in August.

Earlier in the year, a decision and a commitment to run a half marathon in mid-April had been made, and – because it was for a great cause – I was keen to follow through.

Travelling to the race 12 days after Connemara though, I could still feel Connemara's efforts in my body. Whatever about the decision to run the half marathon, I knew running it at speed might be foolish. I should have jogged the half marathon, but I didn't. It was a silly mistake.

An exhausted body made itself known the very next day and boy did I pay for it over the next two weeks. For that period, I was shattered.

I have only myself to blame for my error, but if I learn, then I can evict the word mistake from my brain and insert the word, 'learning'. Thomas Edison taught me that. "I haven't failed", he once famously said. "I have just found 10,000 ways that don't work". Soon after, he invented the light bulb.

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. In fact, we can grow immeasurably from the experience. But it is important that we do. If I make this same error again in the near future, then more fool me. I am certain I won't.

Back in 2007, when I ran my first marathon, I sat a PHD in making a mistake. That day, I went out too fast and hit 'the wall'. It was such a chastening experience; I have never forgotten its lesson and have never hit the infamous 'wall' since.

This is partly because it was so painful at the time and also because I wrote it down. By writing it down, I was able to remind myself time and time again in the years after.

If you have made a mistake or do so in the future, analyse it for learning. If you find something useful, then consider making note. That way, you are far less likely to repeat the error. Also don't be too hard on yourself. John Wooden, a very successful and famous American basketball coach once wrote: "If you're not making mistakes, then you are not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."

If you diagnose something useful, then scribble it down and put it in a 'learning' folder.

That way, the chastening 'mistake' can prove very beneficial in ensuring future success.

Twitter: @32marathons

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