The Spear Throw Ate My Homework


You’ve all read it before. By now, its become a formula so basic and ingrained that it could be taught in first grade. The litany of excuses that riddle everyone’s race reports are as ubiquitous as race numbers and running shoes. Most notably, its the excuses that we spew out all over social media to explain why we didn’t win. Even worse is when we DO win and we feel the need to undermine our accomplishments by coming up with a reason why we weren’t in peak form but still managed to win! Thanks alot, says #2. What a jerk! Luckily, he’s had hours to mull it over and come up with excuses of his own. Most of the time, here is how it goes:

Step 1 : Introduce what you were doing, and when.

“I had a great race at (RACE NAME) this weekend.”

Step 2 : Come up with some kind of excuse.

“Everything was going great until (CALAMITY) happened”

Note: acceptable answers include: flu, instant unexplainable head-cold, sudden onset of muscle weakness, spontaneous race-nutrition explosion, wardrobe failure, not enough training, too much training, not enough racing, too much racing, etc.

Step 3 : Something incredible happened.

“I was in dead last place, trying to fix my broken shoelace, when I looked deep inside and visions of my ancestors appeared on the monkey bars. They told me to run harder. I came back from 284th place to finish 6th”

Step 4 : How well would you have done, if you didn’t experience your calamity?

“I would have finished 1st, for sure, if my underarm skin hadden gotten so chaffed.”

Step 5 : Put a positive spin on the whole thing.

“Luckily, my dog buster, won his ‘doggy 5km’ race that day and took us all out for pancakes after the race. This race has inspired me to train harder, push myself daily and really take my racing to the next level!”

So…. sound familiar? I get it, and i’m guilty of doing the same thing, but I think this has to stop. Ask yourself, WHY didn’t you get the result you wanted? Was it the weeks of missed workouts? The inability to execute your race? Most of the time, you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. So OWN it. Swallow your pride. Celebrate your defeat. We learn more from defeat than victory, so embrace it.

Maybe you got beat? Maybe you didn’t achieve your goal? Short of a few very legitimate excuses (Meteor hit the finish line? Lightning fried my timing chip?) The reason you did, or didn’t achieve your goal was likely your own fault. Here are a few tips to help with that.

Set realistic goals! Maybe you’ve never cracked the top 10. That’s fine. But is it realistic to say that you are going to win world championships? Or jump from 50 miles to 100 miles at WTM?

Set goals that aren’t position dependant… and that aren’t dependant on other competitors. Something like “I want to complete every obstacle without failing” or “I want to run 6 min/mile pace on the flats, between obstacles. Or, (if you know the course well, and have raced there before) I want to finish in under 2 hours.
TRAIN! Analyze the race, break it down into components. Running, lifting, obstacles, grip, transitions, etc. Practice these. Time them. Recover, repeat, try to improve. Systematically training and measuring your performance allows you to become faster, better and more efficient. So do it!

Put it all together. Show up on race day. Control EVERY variable that you can. Don’t lose your bib, or show up with broken shoes or without any nutrition. If you want to do well, don’t leave anything to chance.

Execute! Crush it. Have fun.

After the race, avoid the temptation to blame something.

Take 10 minutes to really mull over your performance and see all the ways you can improve.

What went well? What didn’t? How can I shave 4 seconds off my barb-wire crawls?

If I don’t have a good race, its 100% my fault.

Unless there is a spear throw. You can ALWAYS blame the spear throw.


Ryan lives in the Great White North. Occasionally he comes down to the US to run obstacle races. He enjoys spending time with his wife Lindsay, and his dog Suunto.

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