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The Fluke Factor

Posted Mar 09 2013 7:46pm
1. A stroke of good luck.
2. A chance occurrence; an accident.
3. Games An accidentally good or successful stroke in billiards or pool.
"I am always doing things I can't do, that's how I get to do them." Pablo Picasso 
I have heard this word, 'Fluke', uttered so often from the mouths of runners who have just accomplished something big - something important - something, at one time, unimaginable: "Oh. Yes, I ran a marathon, but it was just a fluke." "Yes, I did just PR, but it was just a fluke." "I qualified for Boston, but I'm afraid it was just a fluke, so now I need to do it again."...or else... 

The Fluke Factor (as I call it), based on my experience, seems to plague women more than men. I have heard so many women (myself included) cross the finish-line, having just run a strong race, or a personal best, or a new distance, and immediately downplay what they've just done. Others reflect later on their accomplishments and wonder if what they did was just some strange stroke of good luck. 

This thought worms its way into one's confidence and self image - and suddenly the achievement is thrown into doubt. It was all just a fluke - luck - had nothing to do with ME. There is a reason why a fluke is also a parasite. Parasites live off of you, drain your energy, take what they need and leave you with nothing.

So we set out to see if it was just a fluke - can we do it again? - or can we not?  And this thought eats at us. And if we don't do it again, does that mean that WE never did what they actually, really, did?

This is another problem with going after your wildest dreams: When you achieve them, it's as if it can't possibly be true. You didn't really do that! How in the world could you have done that?

Well, I'm here to tell you that there are no FLUKES in running. The beauty and pain and challenge and appeal of running lies in the very fact that it is entirely up to YOU. You have no one to blame for your failures, nor for your successes. It's all about you.

Yes, it is important to have support, and that matters a lot, but no one can run the run for you. We are often more than willing to heap crap on ourselves for our "failures" (and I've written before about how essential failure is for our success and growth), but we dismiss our successes so easily. 

I know runners who think that their first marathons were flukes. That their first BQs were flukes. That all their PRs are flukes. I try to reassure them that this is just impossible - I don't care if you were running with someone - someone who encouraged you, was there for you - that all adds to the experience but doesn't alter the simple (ha, not so simple) accomplishment of having done it.

Now, with chip timing and notification, I get a little jolt of energy every time I cross a mat in a race knowing that the people I care about know where I am. It matters, but they aren't running the race for me, they're just helping to make it a bit sweeter.

It's scary to reach for our goals, but when we courageously go after it, we should at least savor what we achieve. Go do what you can't do, and then accept that you did what you thought you could not do, and relish that knowledge.

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