Can You Be a Success Without Reaching a Goal? I Am

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As many of you know, I ran the Chicago Marathon this past Sunday. Although it wasn't the race I hoped it would be, it was an experience I'll remember forever. I set an aggressive goal for myself, but wasn't able to run quite fast enough to meet it. So does that mean I failed? Not at all.

Chicago was the fifth marathon I've run, so I feel like I've progressed from just wanting to finish to wanting to get faster. Each time I've been able to do that, shaving about 15 minutes off the race before. But I knew this time was going to be different. My last race was on a flat course, and I ran as hard as I could the entire time. If I was going to improve on that, it was going to take some tough training and a little luck that I'd be feeling extra good on race day.

I didn't sleep much the two nights before the race--the first one because of a restless 10-month old, and the second because my whole family was sleeping in the same hotel room (which I wouldn't recommend in hindsight with small children). I feel like I'm always tired these days, so that lack of sleep wouldn't affect me too much, right? But around mile 10 when I was ready to lie down and take a nap, I knew the sleepless nights had taken their toll.

I tried to enjoy the experience of the race as much as I could, knowing around mile 14 that I wasn't likely to reach the goal I had set for myself. I experienced the normal emotions--frustration that today wasn't my day, some anger that I wasn't able to push myself as much as I wanted to, etc. Then around mile 18, I came up behind a man who was running on crutches with one leg. Yes, he did the entire marathon on crutches. And I realized that I could spend the rest of the race beating myself up, or I could draw inspiration from a man like him, soak in the cheers from the crowd, and finish as strong as I could.

Maybe some day I'll reach that ultimate goal. But for now, I'm proud that I was able to train for and finish something that a lot of people would never even attempt to try. (I guess I'm just crazier than the average person. Haha.)

Goal time: 4 hours, 20 minutes.
Actual time: 4 hours, 29 minutes.
Still a success? Yes.

Have there been times when you didn't reach a goal but still considered yourself a success?

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great mind set god bless thank you Report
Congrats...You did great! Report
You're such an inspiration!

Yes, I planned to stay faithful to my nutrition goals, and I went over. I still felt successful, though, because it was always on my mind, and I did TEN times as better than any other year! Yay! Report
Not every goal is fully realized until we have time to step away from the accomplishment. Yours will become clearer and clearer as time passes. Meantime, check out this inspirational story, also from the Chicago Marathon, on :
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thank you, I hope someday I can feel this way about myself. Report
I think you are pretty awesome regardless of your time..... Very inspirational...! xx Report
You are a success in my book. Congratulations! Report
I always set 3 goals for any race - a minimum, a reasonable, and a stretch goal. Typically - minimum would be to finish without walking except for my planned water breaks, reasonable would be a time goal that I'm pretty sure I can make based on training, and stretch would be a more agressive time goal that would only happen if everything worked just right and the race adreneline gave me an extra push! Gives you three levels of success to shoot for and minimizes that 'oh, I didn't make my goal - I'm a failure' syndrome. Report
Nine minutes off your goal -- that works out to meeting your goal plus or minus 3.5% (well minus). It doesn't seem worth mentioning. Congratulations on meeting your goal. Report
One of the things I've learned lately is to accept being less than perfect. That means if I eat poorly at a meal, I've not 'blown it' for the day, or if I don't get something accomplished in just the exact way I thought I would, not to let that stand in the way of basking in what I did accomplish. In your marathoning, you've accomplished much! Report
Congrats, Jen! Report
a friend of mine was in the same marathon, her goal was to qualify for Boston, she missed it by 47 seconds. she came in under 4 hours, and finished was 16 minutes better than her last time, but disappointed that she missed her goal. its funny how goals can be so illusive - and yet inspiring. i mean think of all the folks reading this thinking - wow - run a marathon - i could never do that! so...a step at a time - living life every day and praising God is a great goal. Report
You should be very proud of that time, you finished and you didn't give up. Doesn't matter what the motivation was, beating yourself up was not the answer. Congrats on your run, that is amazing!!! Report
You are a success the minute you step towards a goal. Report
If I did the math right, that's 10 min, 17 sec average per mile. For 26 miles. That's pretty awesome in my book! Report
I'm with the "You're a HUGE success" crowd.
You still ran the marathon, you did NOT quit, you ran very close to your goal time under less than ideal conditions AND I'd be thrilled to run that time!! Report
Of course you're a success! Are you kidding. Compared with the majority that lazed on a couch that morning eating whatever washed down with flavored hfcs while you were out there pushing yourself on to new heights. What would this world look like in a year if more folks got up off the couch and started doing what you did or something similarly challenging? Report
Yahoo! You are a HUGE success! Congrats!! Report
woohoo jen. double successs: physically and emotionally. Report
I try to be careful about 'goals.' I had set a goal once to get to 125 pounds. It took months, but I did it, and to my horror, I looked awful: bony and unhealthy. For my weight now I no longer set a long-term target goal. Instead I celebrate small bits of daily progress. Passing up a brownie *without* feeling deprived. Drinking 8 glasses of water. Getting through an entire exercise DVD without stopping. Fitting something that didn't fit the week before. Journaling my food intake for the day. It's those little steps that keep me motivated and feeling successful. I've decided that the "goal" will be right when I like what I see in the mirror, fit what I like in the store, and generally feel energetic and able to do whatever I feel like doing. And that's how I'm measuring success. Report
Only 9 minutes longer than what your goal finishing time was? Uh, definitely not failure. And, my goal is to finish one marathon - Chicago was your fifth! You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Report
Wow!! what an inspiration! Report
In my humble opinion, finishing is successful all on its own. Yesterday our fair city had a marathon and I was envious of those who finished it or even particpated. Report
WoW! You only missed your goal by 9 minutes!! In the grand scheme of things, those 9 minutes are miniscule. Look back on all the work you had to put in to get as far as you have; look at all the successes and goals met each step of the way. All that adds up! Report
Congratulations. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story.
Keep up the good work. Report
I am proud of you for doing it! And I am in awe of you - 5 marathons (one so soon after a baby!) and a time I would kill for! You are right, sometimes we have to alter our goals, but I believe that just setting out with an honest attempt to reach our goals, makes us winners. My marathon took over 6 1/2 would have been home and napping by then!...but I did it, just as you did!

Way to go!

And what is #6 going to be??? Report
You did it, forget about the 9 minutes that's for lack of sleep. Report
Your comments are inspiring! I think I will go right out now to ride my bike! Report
While not EVERY attempt may result in *quite* the SPARK we're looking for, hat's off to you Coach Jen for making your race SPARKTASTIC by appreciating all that the experience had to offer! We have to keep striking the flint against the stone to see what we can IGNITE! I have little doubt that you're gonna keep at it until you have that PEAK "WOO HOO" experience we ALL crave!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
What a great time! And, so close to your goal time. I think you are a huge success. Not too many young moms would even dream of trying to do that. You are a wonderful role model for so many around you!
thank you for sharing--- Report
Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaby! When you said "around mile 18, I came up behind a man who was running on crutches with one leg"... I thought I would fall off my chair! You woke me up to a whole new thing about my own self! Why the heck can't I get up and do something with myself!?

Believe me, you DEFINITELY are a success! Running in all of those marathons, topping your time each time... Remember, we may not do well every single time we do something, but by golly we attempted to do it and gave it everything in us. you said yourself that the few days before were not the most optimal. It should be a reminder that life happens and can sometimes get in the way. Guess what, now that you have had the experience, next time you do THAT marathon... shoot, you will do it in 4.15!!!
I'm proud of YOU!
You are a success - you tried and you learned something you didn't expect from that man on the crutches - so you ran a Marathon - wow, with a good time AND learned a lesson from it - can't ask for much more! Report
I'd say you were extremely successful! Job well done! Report
Congratulations. I'd call that a success too. For me right now just starting a marathon would constitute a success. I ran my first 40 seconds the other day. Yeah, that was about how much I could do. I haven't run in years. But I know in time that will increase. Best wishes for new goals and continued success. Report
Jen-great job! Isn't it funny how just when we start feeling a little low something (or someone) shows up to let us know how lucky we are. And we are have found spark people..and friends on spark people! Congrats on your race! Anne Report
Congrats on the marathon - you did great!

The goal I aimed for, didn't achieve, and still feel like a success - I was training to walk a half marathon, and I set up a schedule (alternating distance days and hill days) - and while I injured my foot and ended up in a foot cast and physical therapy for months, I did conquer my challenge hill (one mile long, 750 feet altitude change) on my fourth attempt. Just conquering that one hill, the hill that represented the biggest challenge to me, was a major success! (And no, I didn't attempt the half marathon, I was in the foot cast for 2 months after that.) Report
you did great and the spark community is proud of you and your accomplishments. someday i hope to run a marathon, i will also set a time goal but if i fail to meet the time i also know that i will have been successful.
congrats Report
You did reach your goal. Your goal was to do it. It doesn't matter how long you took. You did it. Some people don't even try. Trying is always the best thing!! Report
Congratulations - that is still a great accomplishment and you should be so proud. Report
Congratulations. You did finish and that is great. Actually is great you even tried. Report
Congratulations! I think you did GREAT and you came close to your goal. Thank you so much for sharing this blog! Report
I'm impressed. Besides finishing, which set an example and inspired a lot of the people there, you took the time to write about it for us. That inspired, many of us. Thank you. I also think you have a great family being there to support you. Congratulations on finishing the race, and let us know how you do next year! Report
Great blog Jen.

This reminds me so much of my entire journey. I shared this with another member who was beating himself up because he missed hitting a goal by a certain date.

In my 5-years of losing weight I've NEVER hit my year ending goal. I've set respectable goals of 60-70 pounds per year, but never hit them. Well, 5 years later I've lost 285 pounds and I consider that a success no matter what.

I'm proud that you were able to finish even if it wasn't your goal time! Report
Congrats to you for fulfilling your dream to do it. I wanted to be at the halfway point of my total goal by the end of the year, but I'm not and that is totally all right. I'm still 53 lbs lighter than I was at my heaviest- so yes: that is success to me. Report
Be very proud of yourself, you did a wonderful job. Like you say, most people wouldn't even attempt this. Kudos to the man, with one leg, on crutches. I can't even imagine the courage it would take.
Congratulations, to you both. Report
I ran my first HM in May and my goal was to finish in 2:45:00. My time was 2:50:10. For a split second, I was disappointed that I hadn't reached the goal I set for myself. But then I thought, "By only 5 minutes you're disappointed?" I quickly realized how discouraging my train of thought was. I refocused and realized that I had done something that I never thought I could do--run 13.1 miles. Report
thank you for sharing your story it was inspiring congratulations on running a marathon with a goal in mind and successfully completed the run keep up the good work and am so glad to learn that others consider themselves successful even if the goal set was not met never give up one day at a time Report
Congrats....that is something I have always wanted to do Report
Congratulations!!!! I can sympathize with the way you felt because I experienced the same thing, when I ran my first half-marathon last week. I trained the full marathon but I switched at the last minute because I injured my left foot to the point that I am still limping four weeks later. I woke up to a temperature of 62 degrees and humid which forced me to changed what I was planning wear. We were sweating 2 minutes after we started the marathon and I started to struggle at about mile 3. I was without stamina. By mile 6, I was frustrated with myself and my left foot was acting up more than usual. I took a few walking breaks but I was walking so slow that I was being left behind by other walkers, I could not flex the front of my left which made walking uphill very difficult. I decided that I was better off running but when I tried to run again I could not go long because of my lack of energy. I wanted to sit on the side of the road and cry. At about mile 9, I started talking to this woman who seemed to be struggling like me. She was part of the same team that I trained with (Team in Training) but she was with another group. We kept passing each other in our walking and running streaks. She told me that she supposed to had trained for the half-marathon but that she did do it much because she was not feeling well. She was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in July 2009 and that interfered with her training. She was trying to run all the way but her knees were hurting a lot. We walked and run together for a few miles. We used to tell each other, "okay, we will start running again under that light." And we did. At mile 11 or 11.5 I told that I wanted to finish strong and that I was going to keep running until the end. We wished each other good luck and I ran to the finish line. It was hard and and the finish line did not seem to be closed enouh. I finished strong but in a lot of pain and exhausted. I took a little break and went back to finish line to wait for my new friend. She has already finished and we hugged and congratulated each other. We have accomplished (partially for me) we have set up to do although not the way we wanted to. Talking to her and knowing that she was sick and she was there, gave me the push I needed to get to get to the finish the way I did. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to admire her strength and determination. My sore foot will be better in a few days, her new, discovered sickness will be around longer than that accompanied its symptoms and side effects of the treatment. Kudos to my new friend and all the fellow runners that keep going even when they feel they have nothing left. Kudos to you too Jen Muller! Report
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