From Failure to Finisher: 5 Keys to Accomplishing Big Things

From Failure to Finisher: 5 Keys to Accomplishing Big Things
February 10, 2015 Editor

by Victor Montalvo

The medal they gave me seemed tainted, unearned and unwelcome. I kept it as a reminder of the pain. I made a monument to my failure. “Not again,” I promised myself. I committed to finishing the next time. I was angry. I was in pain. I was ashamed. Yet, among those feelings, I was determined.

For eight long, hard months I prepared for this race and I fell short. An injury to my foot slowed me down and a barrel chested sheriff forcibly stopped me near mile 14. The “sweepers” moved me onto a bus full of quitters.

I wept. Seriously. It was that bad.

I can proudly say that since then I have completed two marathons. How did I go from failure to finisher?

My Five Keys to Accomplishing Big Things:

1. The will to win isn’t enough. We must have the will to prepare to win.

After my painful failure, my body recovered and my fortitude waned. The sense of anguish evaporated. The angry cries of determination fell silent. Training seemed pointless. My efforts felt futile. Why go through this again? Why strive so hard?

Nearly a month later, the monument of my failure lie there unceremoniously on a bookshelf taunting me. At that moment I realized the will to win isn’t enough. I must have the will to prepare to win. I have to want to rise early and endure hardship. I had to learn to embrace the pain of training as my friend.

I prayed for God’s help.

2. Quitting hurts more and for much longer than your body does right now.

So, it began. Slowly, but surely. I studied programs and crafted a training regimen that I could own. It wasn’t sensational, but it was consistent. It stretched me. I was on my way.

As I trained, I improved. I worked my program and began losing weight. The small successes in training boosted my confidence and desire to train. I was striving. When I wanted to stop, I pictured the finish line. When I was hurting, I pictured the bus. When I was alone before sunrise, I invited God to coach me.

No one was counting on me. No one was expecting anything of me. No one was yelling at me to strive on. I could easily not say another word and never hear about it. But the bitter taste of failure still lingered. Only victory could wash it out. So, I pressed on, through the pain. That bitter taste of my failure began to mix with perseverance and it became fuel.

3. You will never know what you are made of until you push yourself beyond what you think is possible.

There is something epic about running further than you have ever ran before in your life. The beginning of my journey was as if I had just risen from a decade long coma. I was 30 years old and 100 pounds overweight. I could barely run 50 yards. The idea of running 26.2 miles was ridiculous. So, I started with small steps. The distances were incremental and I just pushed myself.

My flesh was in full revolt. I had to master it. Most of what I fought wasn’t my body. It was my mind. I kept slamming against the barriers of my own thinking. A whirlwind of thoughts, emotions and opinions swirled around in my head. Starting each run was difficult. Yet, commanding my mind to focus on finishing was harder still. Each week I ran further. Every long run, was an act of defiance against my old, over-weight, couch-potato self. I beat my body into submission. Each week I redefined possible.

4. Achieving big dreams requires us to aggressively oppose comfort.

This kind of fight isn’t easy. Whenever we aspire to dare to reach for something uncommon, we will face opposition. My greatest enemy was my own comfort. 5 AM comes early. Rolling out of my warm bed and peeling away from my gorgeous wife was painful. There was nothing fun about running in the blistering heat, or in the winter cold, or in stormy weather, or before sunrise (especially after a long night). I had to cultivate a love for difficulty. I had to learn to love kicking my own butt into gear. Comfort was my enemy. I declared war.

5. The race is littered with excuses and the people who use them.

The old adage is true. If you want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse. I had tons. Before every morning run the excuses scrolled across my mind. Less than .01 percent of the world has ever completed a marathon. I’m sure many of them have a lot of good reasons. For myself, none existed. I was fat, physically undisciplined, gluttonous and enamored by my own comfort.

Every excuse I had was attached to one of those poisonous elements in my life. So, with God’s power working in my life, I threw those out with the Oreos. I had to get real with myself about why I was the way I was. I had to be painfully honest about the trajectory of my life. I had to repent to God for allowing such insidious sin to establish a stronghold in my life. Maybe you do, too.

When I crossed the finish line, I roared. Seriously, roared… like the Lion King on pride rock. It was a roar of achievement, a roar of exhaustion, a roar of defiance. In the whirlwind of finish line festivities, no one heard me; except for me. I finished where I had failed.

My time was lousy, my pace was slow, my journey was only just beginning, but for me, that moment was like getting attacked in a dark alley by a gang and overcoming them. They kicked my butt, but I’m the one walking away. They knocked me down and beat me down, but I got up. I kept fighting. When I crossed the finish line, they were lying on the ground, defeated. I came in 17,743 of 19,198 finishers… but I won.

Maybe you have a dream that has been neglected, or a goal you aspire to achieve. Go for it! It’s probably going to be tough. It’s going to cost you. You will have your share of obstacles along the way, but don’t quit! Even if you’ve failed before, don’t quit! Don’t ever give up!

You will never know what you are made of until you push yourself past what you think is possible.

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About The Author
Victor Montalvo is a pastor, entrepreneur and a novice running enthusiast. He, his wife, and two children live in Sanford, Florida. In January 2016, he will lead a FivestarMan running team in the Walt Disney World Marathon. If you are interested in running with him next year, please direct message him via twitter @vomontalvo. Beginners and experienced runners are welcome.


  1. Don Martin 8 years ago

    Brother Neil….thanks for the article. It has been my ambition to “train for a 5K” however the excuses come easy. After reading Pastor Montalvo’s story, I’m motivated!!!

  2. Victor Montalvo 4 years ago

    Don! You got this man!!! Go for it! Just get a plan and schedule out your routine. But honestly, the toughest part for me was all internal! Prayers your way brother! Crush it!

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