Friday, April 20, 2012

So Much Cooler When You Work Harder?

Today, I'm running a Ragnar Ultra Relay with 5 of my best internet friends, and 12 more of my internet friends on the other So Much Cooler Online team.

Let's just say I don't have the exact science packing methodology that some of my friends on the team do.  My process is "dump in pile and deal with it later".

I'm sorry, y'all...planning is just not my thing.

In the spirit of "So Much Cooler Online", our 12 man team is dressed up as nerds.  The Ultra Team I'm on with Sarah, Sarah, Chiara, Pam, and Nicole isn't dressing up.  But I got a new computer (well, a "new to me" computer) and it runs on Linux. 
So I don't need a damn costume, I'd like to proudly say that I've got that nerd stuff covered!

If you want more details on our relay, check out some of my teammates' blogs! 

Main Post: Talent Versus Effort

Long distance running, like most things, is a weird animal.  Sometimes people are amazingly fast from the get-go.  I remember one of my high school teammates was running sub 5 minute 1600m races her Freshman year by her second track season.  While I have no doubt she was a hard worker, there's no doubt in my mind that her great genetics played a part in her performances. 

And some people keep making steady progress, like my high school friend Boriana (who I hope doesn't mind me writing about her, is that creepy?), who was always a talented runner, but has made enormous strides as an adult running sub-40 10ks and the like.   Her hard work has definitely paid off.
I see this progress a lot in the blogging world as well, especially among marathon running bloggers who slowly but surely subtract a few minutes almost every time they run a marathon.

(I would put Desi Davila into this category.  Even though she was a standout in high school, she wasn't a buzz generator.  But gradually, she's become someone who is important on the international marathon scene. Pretty cool.)
And then there are people who improve, but at a very slow rate.  People who put in the miles every day, do the workouts, but will likely never be front of the pack runners.  These are the people that I tend to have the most respect for.  It's easy to be dedicated when you're PRing and getting cheers for being fast.  When people are yelling at you that you're winning the race.  Not so easy when you're giving it your all and still not seeing the improvement or results you want.   I'd say that every body responds differently to training as well.  For me, I'm still figuring things out, but I know that when training starts mentally stressing me out, my physical performance suffers.

I think something that often gets lost in the blogging world, is that while hard work pays off, we forget to give credit to our genetics.   I know that I can run a sub 4 marathon on pretty much zero training, and it's not because I'm more mentally strong than someone who runs a 5 hour marathon.  And it doesn't mean I care less than someone who can easily run a 3:15.

Granted to get to a certain point, you have to have a huge level of dedication.  I don't know any woman who can break 18 in the 5k, or 3:00 in a marathon without really trying.  Without putting in a high amount of miles, people will never get to a very high level of performance.  I assume this is because runners on the national stage have it all:  The genetics to run fast, and the drive to run even faster. 

What kind of runner do you think you are?  Do you feel like you are naturally fast?  Improving through a lot of work?  A total slacker? 

Ok...see you on the flip side of this relay =).


  1. Well, I'm kinda stumped. I know that I don't fall into the genetically gifted category. I'm 5 feet tall on a good day and I'm also broad shouldered with a thick waist. Yeah for me. But, as much as I hated my body in my younger years. I realized that my large torso was to accommodate my large lungs. I'm just getting back into shape. But, like you I could also survive a sub 4 marathon without formal training and run a 21:00 5k without much effort. It still means I have to run my ass off. But, I realize that even though I'm short and stubby, I was built for running.

    Rose Runner is one of my favorite examples of genetics and joy. She loves to run and she is really talented.

  2. Good luck on the relay! I did Ragnar DC last year and LOVED it! I think I sort of fall on the in-between of the two runners you described. Over time, I have slowly improved, but will never be a front-of-the-pack runner. At the same time, I fully recognize that I don't work as hard as I could/should, and I still can get decent results. That being said, I think if I was to really dedicate myself, I think I could be one of those easy-sub-4 runners. Maybe this training cycle it will happen?

  3. I'm slow, slow, and then more slow. But, I do get a tiny bit faster with practice. (Like, sub 10 minute miles. I know, I'm just crazy speedy. ;-)) Good luck & enjoy the relay - it sounds amazing!!!

  4. Back of the pack and the improvements (if any!) are snail pace (how apt!) in coming. But hey, I'm ok with knowing I'm natural or fast...I'm happy just being out there.

  5. I am definitely a slowwwww runner. My first 5k was 33 minutes. I shaved off 7 minutes on my 5k and 35 minutes on my half marathon. I am close to where I want to be but know I have to work my rear off to get another pr

  6. hahaha, linux laptop. i think you might be cooler irl.

  7. I am NOT genetically gifted. I am slow. I am working my ass off, while still being lazy. is that possible?

    My freakish kid, though, that child is somehow genetically gifted - if only she would be less lazy.

  8. so this is post relay and have to say i'm loving the pix of u...SR's got that one of u pushing it to the finish and it's awesome. :) great job out there! umm, ur packing style is just like mine too...haha.

    great post and awesome point, there are lots of things that come into play with wat makes for a better runner and a big part is also how prone peeps are to injuries. some people just aren't built to be runners and aren't able to really do the training without getting hurt. genetics certainly play a role and unfortunately we all can't be borth ethiopian style