Yeah...that gangly long-haired steeplechase dynamo who you know...holds the American Record in the 3000 meter Steeplechase. Well this is what his twitter profile looks like (not that I'm stalking):
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Hard to argue with that in his situation. Although...I suppose it depends on the level of talent. I feel pretty certain Shalane Flanagan could kick my butt in the mile even if she decided to stop running for 5 years and race me while doing the backwards crabwalk.
So maybe "Fairly talented/ hard work beats ridiculously talented when ridiculously talented doesn't work hard". Doesn't have the same ring, does it?
Of course, there are some pretty crazy stories of what has happened to people who weren't at the top from day one:
There's Ariana Hilborn who went from running her first marathon in 4:38 to getting an Olympic Trials "A" standard just a few years later. Or Desi Davila who, while she was a high school standout, there was nothing in her 19:10 5000 meter college debut that indicated she would be an Olympian. On a smaller scale, I get to watch many of my running friends run PR after PR and improve to run times that are truly great.
Amazing and inspiring stuff! Obviously the product of crazy hard work and countless hours doing workouts.
But then I can think of my own anecdotes of the differences in talent in people:
Like during my high school track days where...honestly, it was just obvious who had more natural talent. We all ran similar workouts. As a high school mid-packer, there were people that would never ever beat me, and girls who I would never beat in a million years. It wasn't that one person was working a lot harder than another....some people just seemed to benefit from the training or were just fast out of the gates from their first season.
|source. This is the cross country team from my high school 8 years after I graduated creepily taken off their website. Because I don't have any pictures of my own team. Go figure, no social media or digital cameras back in those days.|
This can be a sensitive topic. You don't want to tell someone who has gotten really fast at running that they didn't work hard to get there, or assume that someone who trains hard but is near the back of the pack doesn't train hard at what they do.
So here are my conclusions:
1) If there is room in your life to work harder, there is the capacity to improve, even if it's by a few seconds.
2) People are different in their natural talents, but also in their ability to reap benefits of hard work AND their capacity to train really hard without their bodies breaking down.
3) You can be fast and lazy, and slow and hard-working, but to be anywhere near the elite scene you must be both.
4) There is probably a great benefit in learning all the technical stuff like VO2 max and lactate threshold etc etc to make training more effective. Not that I've done this.
5) Super Fast People: Remember to count your blessings on the running front and not just hashtag how much you believe in yourself. If you're near the front of the pack, it's likely a result of both hard work and talent.
So what do you think has the greatest part in being a successful runner? Have you improved a lot through training over months / years?