Tuesday’s Failure is Full of Grace (and out of breath).

Piper and friends at the Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon, May 2018.

Publisher’s Notes by Publisher Piper Klemm, Ph.D

For those of you who track my happenings, I ran my first 5k in April of this year. This was not some sort of goal or practiced achievement. It stemmed from a conversation at dinner one night in which a friend claimed that anyone could run a 5k. Adrenaline rush and push, going as slow as possible, anyone could do it. I simply didn’t believe it. So, I signed up for a 5k in my hometown of Canton, New York in mid-April.

I meant to train, but forgot about it for a few weeks. Then travel and horse shows, and I showed up on the morning in April 7th with some Under Armour and ready to take on the 28 degree morning. Snow fell, ice covered the road, and we lit onto the trails which contained soupy melted stream and mud sections, as well as a few icy slopes that required focus not to fall. I caffeinated heavily, ran slowly, and to my surprise, finished just fine in 40:41. I bet against my own iron will and pride, and I was wrong. The science experiment data fell against my preconceived notions of what was possible.

Racing around for an ever- stimulating spring horse show season, I didn’t even lace up my sneakers and attempt to run after the 5k. I hadn’t run since that victorious day and, although not opposed to it, there simply are not many running races in the middle of nowhere small town America.

All of this leads me to today, a nondescript Tuesday in June. I woke up, worked until I couldn’t even, and took a break to go into town to donate blood. I walked home, eating a bag of Cheezits – my treat to myself every time I donate blood – and checked my phone. A friend posted that there is both a one mile run and a 5k starting literally a few hundred feet from my house, starting at 6:30 pm. Well, I can’t pass that up. Right?

Well, I did just donate blood and it’s a bad idea. But it’s also getting moving, getting going, right here, and has a $2 entry. I can’t not. I work until 6, get dressed and eat some cashews and wander over. As I hit the top of the hill, I read the course description – it’s flat for people to get their best times – and I see the EMT ambulance. I’m not sure what hits me. I just suddenly think, “I can run the 5k.” That’s not correct, my rational side kicks in. I have no caffeine, no blood, and having one under my belt, I’m not sure pride will carry me very far.

I walk over to the sign-up tent – men sign up on the left, women on the right. I wait in line, get to the front, and see two forms. I just put my name on the 5k one. Piper Klemm, age 29. I can do this. Right? I walk across the grass to sit on the side of a hill and wait – maybe catch up on some phone calls and emails.

I run into my friend and we hold her baby and catch up with all forms of life. I look around and I could just go to sleep. For those looking for foreshadowing in this story, here it is. I didn’t even particularly feel like standing up.

I am sitting on the grass chatting with my friend when the gun goes off. I leap up, say goodbye, and make a break towards getting across the starting line with the back of the pack, careful not to be blocking anyone who is taking this seriously. I hit some beats on my iTunes and get rolling.

I run for a bit and talk myself up that I can do it. I round the first bends with the crew. After a bit, I start to notice people passing me. Am I going that slowly? It still feels like I’m running. I desperately skip songs looking for something that will force me to keep up. I start to feel my lungs. I keep running. As we continue in on the race, more people pass me, I’m still running, but not successfully, and I notice that the pathway- I had no idea where it was going- was headed straight to my house.

As we close in towards my house, my lungs feel like they filling; I feel like I’m drowning. I have no blood and I can’t breathe. As this was not a planned excursion, I have no water or reprieve and didn’t look at the weather and find myself very overclothed. I break to the walk and try to catch my lightheadedness and walk at a pace that will get me through my front door. This was dumb, I’m a quitter. I peel off toward my house where Adam is waiting for me with dinner. My second 5k attempt was a resounding failure.

Which leads me to the age old question, is it better to run the mile and be a success or attempt the 5k and be a failure?

For the 5k failure, I ran more, pushed harder, and mentally prepared (at least in the moment) than I would have for the 1 mile theoretical success. Although probably not under a doctor’s advisement or coach’s plan, last night I became a better runner, a better trained athlete, and learned exactly where my limits are (which I clearly hadn’t learned prior). I am better – in this instance – for failing at the higher goal than I would have been with success in the more minor goal.

This is all, in part, why you have a coach. But the goals, the sit downs and planning sessions with your coach – that is up to you. For my riding, I am timid and make all reasonable attempts to bolster my confidence instead of tearing it down. For my spirit, I crave the next level, to push through, to be better than I am. In that sense, I crave trying until I can’t breathe, can’t move, can’t… I crave the hunt to failure. Where is the limit? Jump on in and find out.

About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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