Facing defeat


Yesterday at the Tokyo Marathon the once marathon world record holder and favorite to win, Eliud Kipchoge finished 10th. “That’s how it is — not every day is Christmas Day,”  he told reporters after fading through mile 12. Kipchoge has always been fascinating to me. He makes running look like ballet, and he seems gracious beyond comprehension. He was on quite a streak of winning until Boston 2023.

It’s easy to support and cheer someone on in their winning days. It’s when we hit the losing days, that is of interest to me. By all accounts Kipchoge is just as gracious regardless whether he crosses first or not. Runners who surround him report that is who he truly is.

I think that he’s a great example for all of us.

While the Buffalo Bills have a long standing pattern of heartbreaking losses, it appears that quarterback Josh Allen understands how to lose. His backstory involves him not being recruited out of high school, and initially playing at junior college. After sending a reported 1,000 emails to colleges, one college answered him. He would go on to a successful college career at the University of Wyoming before being drafted to Buffalo. When he came to Buffalo the haters were louder than the supporters, and then he became one of the most beloved players, and people, in Buffalo.

Throughout my athletic career I have been fortunate to cross the line 1st many times. But I have also DNF’d, I have been badly defeated, and I have even had other women literally spit in my face after defeating me. My Dad always taught me that winning is fun, but it’s through losing that we learn.

“Losing teaches us more than winning ever can” he would say “And that also teaches us to be gracious when we do win.”

That lesson has always stuck with me. It’s true. Therefore when I watch athletes like Kipchoge or Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills…. I watch how they react to both scenarios. When there is a win, immediate credit is given to the team, the coaches, the supporters, and the fans. When there is a loss, there is personal accountability, and then a very quick reset.

After losing to the Kansas City Chiefs this season, at a press conference the next day Josh Allen was quick to say “It’s football. We are still here”. Last night Kipchoge was quick to congratulate the men’s winner and all of the runners who took part that day.

Grace is beautiful both in victory and defeat.

Neither of these athletes allow victory nor defeat define who they are. It’s part of who they are but it is not WHO they are. That’s something I see a lot of us age groupers struggle with. A bad day doesn’t mean you suck, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it’s just … a bad day. Good and bad days are like the weather. They both pass. We eventually learn to appreciate what they both have to teach us.

If the marathon world champion can come into a race as the favorite, hold his head high when he finishes 10th, and immediately point to and celebrate the achievements of others, I am certain that we can too. If Josh Allen can stand in front of reporters and fans and remind us that football is football, that tomorrow still came and that means we still have a chance to achieve our dreams…. I am also certain, that we can too.

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