How The Mighty Fall 6


I admit it: I was cocky. I didn’t need no stinking plan. I had already mastered—by which I mean, I had run— 21 miles. How different could 22 be? What’s one mile to a full-fledged, long-distance athlete? I scoff at a mere 5k. Pshaw. A mile. I so got this.

I so did not have this.

When he dropped me off, my husband said, “You know you’re going for a long run when your driver has to fill up with gas before dropping you off.”

Ha ha.

Wait. That’s not funny.

This run was like one of those suspense movies where you think the villain has met a gory death only to rise from the grave, knife in hand to make one last lunge for the hero. First, I had to conquer the newness of this trail and its attendant hills. I didn’t eat well, or at all, so I was hungry. Did I mention it was hot? I had expected water fountains to refill my tiny bottles, but there was a strange and offensive paucity of fountains on this trail. Would it kill you, city park people, to add a fountain or two? And maybe a portajohn? The water I guzzled poured through my system, making each agonizing step of the last mile echo in my bladder.

I had no choice but to keep running, confronting evil after evil. Hills, hunger, sun, heat combined with a heaping helping of discouragement. Even my pep talks were confused:

“When you get to Yale, it’ll only be 11 more miles,” one part of me said.

And then, “Eleven miles? Eleven MILES?” said her rational sister.

During my Nightmare on Trail Street I doubted myself or my environment every single step. I could not, would not—did not have the capacity to—pull my sorry self out of that pit. I called my running buddy. She said smart, kind things. I texted her naughty words.

Finally, I called my husband, who did not reject my call. Who did not answer his phone with a giant sigh of annoyance. Who came to get me, who brought the kids, who ran to me when I appeared, haggard and on the verge of tears from up a hill and around a bend. He brought me a dry shirt and 64 ounces of gatorade. He smiled.

I was so spent, the tears I could shed were tiny, tiny drops. It was more of a heaving sob; one of my better looks.

Pride comes before the fall. And how far I fell.

What do you do after a failure like that? I felt like a quitter. I was a quitter. I failed. I did not finish the distance I had wanted to run. What do you do with that?

First, I gave myself a set period of time to wallow. Wallowing is fun. When we wallow, we say all the childish things we’re thinking instead of swallowing them. I don’t like to brag, but I’m really good at this. “I’m stupid. I suck. I can’t do anything right.” You say tantrum, I say confronting my emotions. Tomato tomahto.

Then I listened to the people I trust. I have smart friends. They said smart things. “You didn’t fail,” they said. “You, um, ran 15 miles,” the chorus chimed. “Sometimes it hurts,” they said, and they were right. Of course they were right. Darn them.

And then I went for another run. Not that same day, you silly.

Pride comes before the fall. That’s how the judgy church lady in my head says, “I told you so.” She says, “you can’t do this.” She says, “Nice try, loser”

I need my smart friends. I need my faith. I need my family. Because alone, I would fall to the power of her words. Without them, I could not run toward the truth. I can do hard things. I can try again.


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6 thoughts on “How The Mighty Fall

  • Jen Ferguson

    Yes!  You so can try again, friend!  As much as those lessons suck, it is good to know that you really do have to eat, have water, and prepare so that when you are on that race course you are filled with good things (and not the bad things – like pride). Oh, how many times have I underprepared?  Or let the awful voices tell me lies?  Too many to count.  But your next long run will be awesome — the pride flushed out, the living water pumped in.  It will be a good day.

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      I am beginning to think the only way I can learn is with a swift kick in the booty. Of course, for me (and I’m guessing for you) it’s not about the running. It’s about the broader issues that rise. Thanks for the encouragement. I find myself needing that more than ever now. 

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      Hey, Angie. Nice to meet you! The judgy church lady in my head is quite the character. She’s lived there for a long time! I write about her in my book. I hope yours is at least funny, or has a goofy accent or something.