Coming up Short at the Merrills Mile Ultramarathon

By: Trey Brush

One of the great, yet painful things, about running is that it provides you with those opportunities you experience in life and it gives you the chance to grow or go backwards.  Since 2007 I have been fascinated with the ultramarathon world.  My very first ultra was a 50 mile trail run in Laurel Mississippi and I was one of the last ones to finish.  It is the only race I have ever run that I can clearly quote my time off the top of my head at all times-11:37:25.  I will never forget it.

I have done ultramarathons from 50K to 50 miles and many timed races of 12 and 24 hours.  Ever since 2007 the distance that has enchanted me has been that 100 mile mark.  The strange thing about ultrarunning and myself is I don’t want to do it all the time.  Most ultramarathon runners run these races a lot.  I dabble because of my fascination with those distances.  In fact my last ultra was in 2011 so it has been a long layoff due to a cancelled ultra for me last year.

Only July 4th I had the chance to run the Merrill’s Mile in Dahlonega GA as a timed race and get my shot at 100 miles.  To make a long story short, I failed.  There is plenty to be proud about and accept from that race but at the end of the day, I came up short.  I ran longer than I have in 3 years.  I ran 62 miles and honestly did it without proper training.  All that being said, I missed my target.

An important part of growth in running or in life is understanding how to deal with coming up short.  If you have run long enough, you have missed your goals and if you have not done so yet…just wait.  We read a lot about setting goals, setting PR’s and achieving your best during a race but there is a shortage of resources for what to do when you fall short.  This whole experience is very fresh for me so I thought I would give you some of my thoughts and maybe it might help someone in the future.

My process on overcoming “coming up short”:

  1. Mourn.  I think this is ok.  Why should you not be upset?  You poured your heart into what you do and I think it serves you well to be upset.  However, it does come with a disclaimer.  You have to have a cutoff time.  I think 24 hours is good.  In life I like the policy of celebrate for 24 hours and mourn for 24 hours.  You can’t let it linger. 
  2. Move on.  Don’t go back to mourn.  We gave it 24 hours and that is enough.  You have to get past it.
  3. Look back.  We are not going back to mourn and we are not going to live in the past but you do have to look, see and learn from the past.  What was your training like?  How was your nutrition?  What did your race plan look like?  Remember the old saying, “those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”  You have to learn.
  4. Determine reality.  When you fall short, things are never quite as bad as you feel they are.  Don’t let the emotions take over, instead study the facts and understand where your current reality is and assess your performance.  You are probably not as far from your goal as you think.
  5. Take a break.  Don’t just dive back into it.  Getting back into a goal driven mindset can drive you crazy.  There is a season for everything.  I don’t train for marathons year round.  I need a mental and physical break.  Diving back into it too quick leads to burnout.
  6. Are you excited?  This is a big question.  A big goal, is a big goal for a reason.  They take time and energy.  For that investment you need to make sure it is something you still are excited about.  It will take sacrifice so make sure it is something you get excited about accomplishing.
  7. Get back on the horse.  If you truly are excited about the goal, then let the planning begin, learn from the past and GO!

One last bonus takeaway—Don’t GO alone.  Take the journey with others.  That does not mean you all have the same goal but it means allowing others to help you in that journey.  If you go back and look at all 7 steps the best people to help you with those is someone else.  Someone else can whose emotions are not raw can give you a better picture of reality and lift you up when you need it.

I hope you nail your running goals this fall and experience every runners high you can, however just in case you don’t…you know you are not the only one.


Trey is a runner and coach with a desire to help create change in others.  He lost 80 pounds on his journey from a watcher in life to a doer.  His passion for running and creating change led him from the couch to marathons and ultramarathons.  He is a husband and the father of 2 boys living in Jefferson GA.  You can follow Trey on twitter @RunOnPurpose