Loss is a big word. Defining the emotions related to loss can be even bigger. As ultrarunners, we can experience loss after crossing a finish line, not finishing a race (or starting, for that matter) or not being chosen in a lottery. Because of the amount of time we invest in ultramarathons, the losses run deeper and therefore take more time to recover from. Fortunately, the healing process can turn each of us into a stronger, more determined athlete.
A few of us have been there – crossing the finish line just steps behind first place, or seconds after the cut off. That person ahead of you pulled forward with a kick you just couldn’t will upon your legs, or the time clock counted down too quickly as your final steps were just short of the finish. Losing a race or missing a cutoff can be defeating and discouraging, but allowing yourself to process the feelings can help heal those negative emotions. Accepting that there was one (or two) other people on the course who had a little more at the end, or realizing your effort wasn’t defined by a time clock will keep you from getting stuck on stagnant thoughts. Whether it’s a poor performance or a lottery pick that never came to be, keeping those emotions in check without blaming yourself will help most people heal quicker.
But be wise and take your time. Don’t hurry through those feelings and assume you’re ok. Missing a race due to injury can produce a feeling of loss that takes time to recover from, both mentally and physically. Sometimes looking back at an injury and the circumstances surrounding it can help you better understand why it happened. Maybe it wasn’t your fault, but there are always lessons to be learned. Spin the situation into a positive one by reinventing your routine and incorporating new measures to prevent the injury from happening again.
Finally, look ahead and realize better things will come once you’ve moved on. If we are lucky, the feeling of loss will only happen a handful of times in our life. But the more we risk in life, love and adventure, the more likely we’ll be faced with the threat of losing something or someone. Alternatively, we also have the opportunity to experience some amazing things by taking big risks, and accomplishing dreams we never thought were possible. While the initial pain of loss can be substantial, the building of strength to move beyond it can be incredibly powerful.