2011 Missoula Marathon: Success in Many Forms

By PAM GARDINER, Wellbuddies Coaching

The warm glow of the Missoula Marathon and Half continues to pulsate within the running community.  Nearly 4,000 of us lined up on June 10 and went the distance of our choice.

The satisfaction of meeting a goal and camaraderie with those who shared the journey are energizing and uplifting.  Look how far we have come!  A year ago, we would never have considered such a feat.  We have so much to be grateful for!  Don’t we?

When we get home, shower, and reflect on our experience over a recovery drink, another voice in our head pipes up.  It checks the race results online. The lists are always organized by finishing time:  all finishers, our gender, our age group.  That other voice in our head is bummed; our finisher’s medal is tarnished. We don’t stack up all that well on the lists.

The ego is not happy at the Back of the Pack.  It buys the cultural norm that success is a matter of speed.  It defines success in comparison and contrast with the others who showed up that day.  As hard as it is to buck the trend, we who want to run for a lifetime must confront the ego, and we must play that game to win.  We need to assert ourselves in proclaiming:

  • I am successful when I start something new, especially if it is scary.
  • I am successful when I aim for an ambitious goal with an uncertain outcome.
  • I am successful when I devote hours, weeks, and months to building the capacity to do my personal best.
  • I am successful when I develop resilience, so that setbacks are learning opportunities rather than excuses to quit.
  • I am successful when I celebrate with others, even if race day finds me on the sidelines.
  • I am successful when I let go of my own goal to help another achieve theirs.
  • I am successful when I check the results, and let them go.

I have witnessed all of these variations on success (and more) over the past six months, working with the Galloway marathon-half marathon training program.  I witnessed them on Marathon weekend.  I look forward to witnessing them among runners—at the Front, the Middle and the Back of the Pack—far into the future.

The benefits of running are legion: reduced stress, improved sleep, positive changes in the “numbers” (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar), a healthy weight, social connections.  On some days, we even get a “runner’s high.”  Those benefits are available with modest investment by slower as well as more competitive runners.

Only the ego needs speed to be satisfied.  The ego has a loud and insistent voice.  It is not always our friend.  It does not celebrate the benefits of running at a slower pace.  It sends us messages of failure rather than reveling in our success.  We all have an ego.  We also all have a wise inner voice that knows better.  It speaks softly, but its message is powerful.  Listen.


Like this blog?  Chances are you’d like these posts from our running blog:  Running Buddies or  Missoula Runners Attend Prefontaine Classic.    Or, check out our Missoula Running and Walking page or Missoula Outdoor Recreation section.

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Pam retired from the US Forest Service in 2008, and trained as a wellness coach (doing business as Wellbuddies Coaching).  She also volunteers for Run Wild Missoula, co-directing the Galloway marathon training program and developing programs that encourage slower runners and walkers at the Back of the Pack.  Pam started running in her early 50’s, and ran three marathons the year she turned 55.  A decade later, she has settled on the half marathon as her preferred distance. Pam is grateful for the diverse and inclusive community of runners and walkers in Missoula. (Left: Pam with son, Johnathan)