Finding Inspiration in an Elite Runner’s Failure

Photos by Aaron Lavinsky/azcentral sports
Photos by Aaron Lavinsky/azcentral sports

I finished my third full marathon two weeks ago. I set a personal record, too, with an asterisk that says *Hit wall at mile 22.5.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about Roosevelt Cook.

Cook finished second in the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. It wasn’t because he couldn’t quite catch up to the winner. Rather, it was his race to win. He was leading the whole thing, comfortably, and then—BAM!—he crashed (bonked, hit the wall, etc.), allowing the eventual winner to pass him around mile 23.

I had a mental picture of Cook simply slowing up, until I saw a photo of him hunched over, hand on his hip and head hanging low. Full stop. An elite marathon runner stopped on the course?!

“I had my water bottles out there and was drinking. My stomach was upset, my arms were cramping,” an azcentral.com article quoted him as saying. “If anybody out there has tips to help me with it (race nutrition), I’ll totally take advice because I’ve tried everything in training.”

Been there, done that. Cook, if anyone takes you up on your call for advice, can you send them my way, please?

I read the tale of this man’s agony on the streets of Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe—and I smirked. A strange response, don’t you think? But you know what they say about misery and company.

I get the same smirk when I see a professional golfer shank one into the trees. I remember seeing Tiger Woods do that once in person during the Phoenix Open. Hey, I can do that, too!

I was having a similar race to Cook. Feeling strong, feeling fast. On pace to break my goal of 4 hours, 30 minutes. After 20 miles, it started slipping away. I really struggled the last six or so miles. I even stopped, something I’d never done during a race. Yes, I set a PR, by seven minutes, no less. But, oh, THAT WALL. My finish was bittersweet.

Clearly I didn’t know about Cook’s struggles during the race, but now that I know it happened, I take comfort. If elite runners like Roosevelt Cook can struggle sometimes, just like I struggle sometimes, then there is room for me to achieve greatness, too.

3 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in an Elite Runner’s Failure

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