Recently, Tracee Ellis-Ross interviewed Michelle Obama, and there was a moment during the interview that gave me pause. More pause and more gratitude. I came back to it again and again because there was something she said that healed a piece of me.
Mrs. Obama said she was “tired of watching men fail up.” They fail, make mistakes, brush it off, chalk it up to experience, and go onto succeed. Massively so.
“I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do and be OK.‘ Because let me tell you, watching men fail up – it is frustrating. It’s frustrating to see a lot of men blow it……and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards.” – Michelle Obama
That’s when it hit me that in trail running, women have the opportunity to Fail Up. It’s expected that some days are going to majorly suck. We won’t hit the mark, but we will inevitably learn something valuable from our perceived failure. We will build upon those failures to create a solid base of experience and progress in our sport.
I can’t Fail Up in my job—that would be called malpractice—but I can Fail Up times a million in trail running. Do you know how liberating that is? As a recovering perfectionist and hard-driver, the notion that failing is a means to an end is terrifying and delightful. I have perceived failure both ways. There are runs where I get it, and there are runs where I can’t grasp why things panned out the way they did. There are DNF’s that I never spent time being grateful for. There are scars on my body to serve as a reminder of years spent learning how to navigate technical terrain, getting me to where I am today, game for just about anything—as long as it involves dirt, adventure, and the simplicity of one foot in front of the other.
These days, it excites me to no end when I see women pushing each other to do better, go a bit longer, fall down, get back up again. I’ve spent years running solo, competitive against only myself because I thought I didn’t want to jump back into competing against other women. It turns out, I need it. When one of us wins, we all win. We are so good at elevating one another, and in turn, we thrive in our sport. Sisterhoods have woven a thread through humanity for a reason. We are the fabric that holds all things together. We are stronger together. We fight harder together. We goof off and work for it together. Self-doubt diffuses. Compassion is ever-present. These are the gifts of a sacred space created by a sisterhood of athletes.
What a gift this is for us to pass onto the girls in our lives. I help with my daughter’s cross-country team, and they are inherently supportive of each other. Let’s continue to nurture that. Allow them to fail and be patient with the ensuing lessons that will come from failure. Show them they will be okay, even if they take big risks. It may not come naturally to them, but we owe it to them big time.
Every day, my family and I end with a grateful circle. What was something that happened this day, big or small, that you are grateful for? While I often have something to say about my family or to add about time spent in nature or running, right now I am extra grateful for it. Even on the days I fail.