The 5:01 Mile

I never ran the fastest, but I had one goal: break five minutes in the mile. I failed. By two seconds.

At the end of my freshman year, I ran a 5:29 mile, and cut that down to a personal-best 5:03 midway through my senior track campaign. Many family and friends came to my last race to cheer me on. They wanted to see me break the five-minute mark. As I passed my coach on the third lap, I could hear him yell, “DK, you have to do this, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” I started pushing hard, as I always did leading into the last lap.

But I failed. I trained every day. Worked hard. Listened to my coach. And still failed. As I crossed the finish line and heard the time, it amost echoed in my ears, “5:01-1-1-1-1.” I peeled off the track, opened a chain-link fence gate to cross over into the spectator area and walked under the bleachers. Then I sobbed.

This failure has stuck with me for 16-plus years. I can’t get another chance to remedy it. It taught me that failure is the best teacher. That each challenge represents a process. You attack that challenge, but you also have to trust it. Trust that you can pull what you need from it, no matter the outcome. “Trust the process.”

That’s a tattoo I’ve had around my left ankle since 2010, something I carry with me each day.

I wrote this because a lot of people ask me what my tattoo says and what it means. I thought it would make a good blog post.