Sunday, April 14, 2013

Talent and Beauty

I ran 18:36 today in a 5 km race today. Off of pretty much no training. At first I didn't understand it. I have been barely training; we're talking 47 km a week has been a cause for celebration lately. I think there is no getting around the fact that I am talented. Wow does that sound obnoxious to just state that outright but here's the thing, I don't think it is bragging to tell people I am talented. Talent, athletic or otherwise, is something one is born with. It's all all just down to random luck of the genetic draw. How can I be proud of or brag about being talented? It is absolutely not an accomplishment. In a weird way, it has nothing to do with me. It has solely to do with which one of thousands of eggs were released to be met by which of millions of sperm on the day I was conceived. I can't be proud of being talented; I did nothing to earn it. It's kind of like being beautiful (which I am definitely not). How can anyone be proud of being beautiful? How is it even a compliment to call someone beautiful? It's rather just a (somewhat subjective) statement of fact. Again, it's all down to the genetic odds. You're born beautiful or (in my case) not. No accomplishment on anyone's part involved. There are characteristics related to these things which are true accomplishment:

-talented athlete: not an accomplishment; working hard and consistently: accomplishment

-beautiful: not an accomplishment; being well groomed and well put together (which I am also sadly not): accomplishment

-intelligent: not an accomplishment; well-read, knowledgeable or a big thinker: accomplishment

 So what then constitutes talent for a runner anyway? How can we precisely define talent. I have come to the conclusion that it means foremost, the extent to which an athlete improves fitness in response to a given workload. A highly talented runner will improve fitness to a greater degree in response to a given work-out than a less talented runner. That is talent in its purest form. Then it gets somewhat greyer... talent also encompasses the ability of a runner to remain injury free (bio-mechanical talent) one might say, that is also purely random chance and genetics. There is the ability to endure pain and push through when common sense is screaming "slow down"... there I am not sure, is mental talent just genetic (which I firmly believe the other two items are) or is that something of which one can genuinely be proud? i.e. is this a real achievement. I think mental toughness is probably truly something that one achieves as opposed to talent which is just gifted.

Whatever. I am grateful to have the talent to make the minute amount of training I am able to squeeze in, pay some big dividends.


  1. It is hard to convince people that I am NOT a talented runner. I train 20 times harder than anyone else running the same times that I do because I have to. When I ran an 8K in 25:29, I was probably capable of at best 25:25; those around me were capable of 22:00. That's why I'm forever exasperated by runners I coach, saying things like "For God's sake, put some effort into it!"

    For me, runners like Steve Prefontaine have no appeal. He had a maximum heart rate of 214. He was a freak. Little known Dave Bedford (WR 10K) trained like a maniac, like an animal, like a machine, because he had to... and people say, "Well, he never did well in the Olympics, because he was always hurt, because he trained too hard."

    Now I'll go find a video of me so you can hear my Minnesota accent.

  2. Steve, we must share an accent since I don't you remember having much of one :o).

    Alright, PPC, you probably knew this would elicit a comment from me. You ARE talented in the sense that you were born with nothing that holds you back from running fast. But come on, girl, don't forget to give credit to all of those years of focused training and speed work you have done. The body doesn't just up and forget those things. Now I will say something obnoxious ... if I had started doing tempos and intervals the same year you did (and not just 3 years ago), I also bet I could run a sub 18.30 5k on little training. And I don't at all think I am talented. Intelligent, yes. Haha. Just kidding. Unfortunately I'm not intelligent enough to resist writing this comment...

  3. Yes, I was going to say exactly what Sea Legs Girl said. You can run so well on little training now bc you have a solid base of miles AND speed training. You also KNOW how to race the 5K, and that is probably bc you raced so many. Also, although this is an awesome time (drooling here), it is slower than your best of bests (17:36, right?).

    I do agree with your points in the last paragraph (minus the mental - I think that is mostly "wanting" something bad and also practicing suffering - that gets you better at it).

    Congrats on such an awesome race:)

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