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How to Know When to Keep Pushing

How to Know When to Keep Pushing

By Sara Hall, Elite Marathon Runner

I’ve been doing some thinking about this - if you’re failing at something, how do you know when to keep pushing through and when to move on/redirect? Our culture glorifies never giving up on your dream (yet simultaneously loves to declare someone is “done”),but for how long and when do you say "when”? Lindsay Crouse's recent piece for the New York Times talked about how for stretches of my career I was having more bad races than good ones. Mine is an experience of one, but here are the things along the way that made me decide to continue pushing vs. hang up my racing shoes.

1) Purpose

I felt a sense of purpose in the process. I always say that if you don’t enjoy the process, the end result is never worth it. Conversely, if you do enjoy it, even if you fail, the entire time spent preparing isn’t a waste. Even when I was having poor races, I found value in the day-to-day process and even started our charity around this time to lean into my other passion (helping people in extreme poverty) by combining the 2. I also started to see my training as worshipping God and anything done as worship is never wasted.

2) Hope

Even when races went badly, I would have a glimmer of hope (usually from what I had seen in training) that there were better days ahead. I knew was capable of more than I’d seen in races.

3) Support

I had the support of my core people. Not all your family and friends are going to understand your path. I had resistance from family members who thought I should move on, but my husband Ryan never for a second insinuated I should give up and always supported me. My kids have 100% supported me as well and are often the ones most vocally telling me to keep going. To me, these are the people I need to be onboard. 


4) Redefine Success

I was able to redefine success. It’s easy to slip into “I’m only succeeding if X happens” and pursuing the things you’re “supposed to” pursue. Defining success on your own terms is life-giving.

5) Listen To Yourself

Only you can know your path. As helpful as it is to get advice from people we trust, take the time to listen in prayer and stillness to hear for yourself. After a lot of prayer, I felt God nudge me to persevere and that there was more to come. It didn’t make sense on paper or to others, but faith often doesn’t. 


About Sara Hall

Sara Hall is one of the top marathoners in the world and the 2nd fastest U.S. marathoner of all-time. In 2020, she set a new marathon personal best of 2:20:32 at The Marathon Project and became the first American to podium at the London Marathon since 2006, placing 2nd. She is the 2017 U.S. Marathon Champion, 2018 Ottawa Marathon Champion, and has placed in the top 10 several times at major marathons. Sara is the world record holder for the treadmill half marathon with a time of 1:09:03, a 3-time US 10 Mile Champion, and 2-time 20k National Champion.

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