In light of such an incredible achievement it seems incongruous to talk about failure. And I’m not one of those critics who argue it was all about the technology, the pacemakers and the shoes. Kipchoge is an athlete who has an unrivalled record of success in the World Marathon Majors and was already the official marathon world record holder. But as a coach, particularly one who’s interested in sport psychology, what I find most interesting is how he responded to the failure of his first sub-2 attempt.
However small, there’s always a gap between success and failure
It might seem unfair to judge Kipchoge’s first sub-2 attempt in 2017 as failure. He ran faster than anyone in history and fell short by a mere 25 seconds. But failure it was.
Imagine you spent six months telling everyone you were going to run a sub-20 parkrun (or sub-30, sub-40….). You picked the flattest, fastest parkrun course you know, checked the weather the week before and arranged for a group of mates to pace you round. Then you cross the line in 20:02.5. That might be faster than you’ve ever run before. It might be faster than anyone had ever run on that parkrun course. You might be delighted to run so fast. But let’s be honest, deep down in your heart, you know you didn’t achieve your goal. You failed.
It’s not that you fail, it’s what you do next that matters most
And this is how Kipchoge should inspire you most. Maybe you would blame the weather, the course, the pacemakers, your shoes or the slow runner with a dog that got in your way. Kipchoge didn’t blame anyone. He acknowledged he gave 100% but came up short. During that first attempt in 2017 he had been on pace until the last few miles when he started to struggle to maintain contact with the pace car. He didn’t blow up and he most certainly didn’t hit the proverbial “wall” but he did fall behind with every step.
Kipchoge analysed the run and trained hard to be better. His incredible mental fortitude and attitude was evident in his official world record run in Berlin 2018. His pacemakers fell away at 25kms, far earlier than planned. But yet again he didn’t dish out any blame or let external circumstances affect his performance. It was “unfortunate”, he reflected post-race, “but I had to believe”. He not only carried on but accelerated to cover the second half in 1:00:33 and finish in an incredible official world record of 2:01:39. Now that’s how you should to respond to setbacks and failure.
We can all run like Kipchoge
You may be unable to run the same pace as Kipchoge but you can be like him. Whatever your goal may be don’t be put off by failure. Don’t ruminate on what went wrong or seek to find excuses. See it as the foundation for your success. Use it as the motivation to be better. Be inspired by Kipchoge’s success but be even more inspired by his failure.
Read more about Kipchoge’s ineos159 challenge and the planning and technology that went into it here