‘Falling Behind Doesn’t Mean Dropping Out’

By Jenna Schifferle

A bib awarded for hitting 300 miles.
A bib awarded for hitting 300 miles.

Thanks to the power of social media, runners in the Run the Year Challenge can connect with participants across the nation for support and encouragement. Members of the Facebook group share their runs and celebrate various milestones, whether it’s hitting mile 100 or mile 1,000. They also ask for tips and advice.

Last week, one particular runner posted about how turbulent his journey had been so far and asked how to avoid sabotaging himself on those particularly challenging days. His post resonated with me for myriad reasons, the most obvious being how relatable it felt.

I ran consistently for the first part of the year, but bad days pile up. Life is catching up to me as it so often does. It all started by missing one day of mileage. The next thing I knew, I started missing a lot of days. Like my fellow runner on Facebook, I find myself disgruntled at this, ready to give up on the whole thing.

The strange part? When this random stranger posted his sentiments, I found myself screaming out to him that a string of bad days wasn’t a reason to stop fighting for the good days. “Forgive yourself and keep going,” I mentally shouted to this man. Eventually, I sat down and penned a response to my new friend, a complete stranger who asked, “How do I avoid sabotaging myself on my bad days?” Here’s what I wrote:

“Remind yourself that falling behind doesn’t mean dropping out. Stay the course and embrace your best days. Forgive your worst. You’ll get there as long as you’re gentle with yourself in the process.”

It’s funny, right? As people, we’re often so much more compassionate toward others than ourselves. We’re more apt to forgive someone else for dropping the ball than we would be if we dropped the ball. Why is that? Better yet, what would we accomplish if we just let ourselves go at our own paces?

As soon as I wrote my response, I knew I needed to heed my own advice.

Right now, I’m closing in on 400 of 2,021 miles for the year — not bad, all things considered. My run streak is, well, currently at one day. I walked four miles yesterday but couldn’t bring myself to pick up the pace. Today, I embraced a good day and crushed six miles with fresh legs. To me, this serves as proof that falling behind doesn’t mean dropping out.

Like so many things in life, our journeys rise and fall with the tide. You may be crushing your fitness goals or taking a breather on the sideline. Either way, you’re on the same path as everyone else. How you get to the finish line is up to you. Just don’t forget to be gentle with yourself in the process.

Until the next mile,