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Rules Of Failure

This is where you set your stall out!

In essence you highlight:

What Terms Do You Accept Failure On?

More importantly:

What Terms Do You NOT Accept Failure On?

I coined this term in 2013 before I entered a big challenge as I needed a simple way to hold myself accountable when so many things could go wrong. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all that CAN happen on an ultra and slip into the illusion that they all mean a DNF - they don’t. 

We’ve already looked at the ‘If/Then’ scenarios in this pack to help, but rules of failure bring a sledgehammer to the party. They are no-nonsense and come into play after you’ve done all you can to mitigate issues. 

Bottom line: You may have to take your problems with you to the finish line!

Please understand I’m not judging anyone, I’m only discussing what I’ve observed. Runners can talk about challenges in absolute terms, as if a certain thing happens it will mean certain failure, not true. I can’t hide my love for the real long game (100+) for exactly this topic. The further you go, the more your rules of failure are needed because literally you get so tired anything feels like the straw that broke the camel's back.

Rules are individual to you. They must be yours to live to, you need to own them and be comfortable with them. But there need not be many on the list if you’re serious. And the more extreme the goal - the less there will be! As I train some very extreme runners they tend to have similar ones to myself. I won’t share my exact rules here as I’ve found some people misinterpret them and it leaves me open to attack without full explanation.

Write your rules out - but pretty quickly you can commit them to memory as there should not be many terms you accept failure on! They can be different for every event. For example if you were on an Arctic Ultra you may have to have different rules, to prevent hypothermia and much worse - you can’t just grit that out - so nuance is allowed but keep clarity!

Then every time you are about to quit, you address your rules of failure that you have previously committed to. They are so powerful!

Example Rules of Failure;

1. Broken limb / immovable limb / serious injury - just can’t move fast enough / at all!

2. Losing consciousness, vision - especially on dangerous terrain like cliffs

3. Timed Out / Asked to stop by race officials - respect the rules

4. Hyperthermia - need help fast

Ok, so to conclude let’s pull this together. You're 70 miles in on your 100 miler and you feel sick and a bit weak but you are not excessively dizzy and you're fully aware, just having a really rough time. You want to quit to end your suffering! But right before you do you pull out your rules of failure. Wait, feeling sick is not there! You don’t accept failing because you felt sick - carry on. Now, you’ve made it to 80 miles, that blister under your foot is making you want to throw a pity party, you are literally weeping and wishing you never entered this thing. 20 more miles feels impossible, you just can’t tolerate the pain anymore, you’re about to quit then pull out your rules of failure. Wait, blister is not on the list, it’s not bad enough to qualify as a serious injury (they can be but you know yours isn't!) and you can move, it just hurts - carry on. Pain isn’t on your list. Discomfort isn’t on your list. Being wet isn’t on your list. Being cold isn’t on your list (you can be cold without hyperthermia!). Getting lost isn’t on your list. You get my point - CARRY ON!!! 

Like I said this is just an example. Your rules need to be yours! You need to be willing to commit to them, they are not for anyone else to put on you. If you don’t commit to your rules of failure they are a complete waste of time. If you do commit, you’ll very likely achieve your impossible. 

Write your own rules of failure. Print off our handy PDF form to create your own list.

Download PDF

Ronnie Staton

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