“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” (C.Coolidge)
This quote hangs in my parent’s house.  In my lifetime, I’ve read it hundreds of times and trust me when I say that it has been woven into my moral fabric. I won’t get into to the other ways in which this quote has altered the course of my life and why I think Coolidge was partially wrong (meritocracy is a myth, in short), but persistence frames my life as a runner.
As demonstrated last weekend, I do not want for persistence and determination; I slogged through 30 miles on a 1.25 mile loop course and wasn’t bored to tears or resignation. Sometimes, however, I wonder if I lack the talent to reach the next level with running.  Perhaps a remnant of a high school career wrought with confidence issues, I consistently battle myself over whether or not this is worth it if I never run a 2:40 marathon. The kind part of my brain, the part that praised me for my tenacity and strength during last Saturday’s run, tells me that I don’t have a lot of racing experience and that in time, this will all click together.  The nasty, cruel part of my mind, however, tells me that it is because I don’t work hard enough, because I don’t want it enough and because I lack the talent for it. (Apparently I am not alone in this) And herein lies the problem.

I’ve enjoyed exceptional success in other parts of my life as a result of persistence. I graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.  I’ve received awards and fellowships for my scholastic endeavors. I continue to have many opportunities to be a co-author in prominent print, despite my youth and lack of a PhD. So what is holding me back from similar success in running?

Last winter, I popped out of bed every morning before 5 a.m. to hammer out a hard workout before work. It should be noted that my job at the time was the job from hell and required me to drink copious glasses of wine post-work to manage, thus negating the option of running after work. Sure, I occasionally missed a workout, but in reviewing my running log from those months, I was a pretty consistent machine. Now, I can barely summon myself out of bed in the morning to get to work on time (new job, no wine needed), let alone do a 12 mile run beforehand. I have always taken my persistence for granted, so to suddenly have that hallmark of my personality wane perturbs me as much as questions about my talent.

Since surgery, I regretfully admit a sense of hopelessness. Despite making huge strides since April and especially this fall, I still wonder if I will ever bounce back.  I have one or two good runs a week now, but spend the remaining four feeling sluggish and out of shape. This beats the crap out of my motivation and I suspect keeps me anchored to my bed in the morning.  I make up most of my runs in the evening after work, but out of a sense of duty, not inspiration. I long for a day when the alarm rings and I don’t snooze it for an hour and a half.

Thus, Coolidge’s quote haunts me. What if I am a runner who works her butt off, without realizing that talent is the limiting factor in her success? What if my marathon PR never goes below 2:40 or 3 hours? As I’m out on the roads this weekend and as I ramp up for Boston, Silent Cal’s words will echo through my head, but only time will tell if talent plus persistence will come to fruition for me.

One thought on “Persistence

  1. Jennnnn

    Hey Sarah, I've been absent from commenting on your blog but this one brought me back out in that I am having trouble getting back on the horse, personally. I'm out of shape and lacking in motivation and one feeds the other enough that it's taking a lot to get me going. Unlike you I was never a runner. I came to running several years ago when I was obese and over time I lost 70 pounds, running was part of that.
    I developed a need to set and meet goals because of running, I learned a love for competition that I never knew I had, I learned to feel such pride and excitement at my accomplishments. As a newer runner those accomplishments are easy to come by so it kept me going pretty well. After my surgery I found everything had changed, emotionally. I didn't fully get the surgery so I could run, it became an issue of quality of life as even fast walking became painful, but I no longer had the urgency to run and race and it's been a longer process of getting back up on my feet than I anticipated. Often I want to want to run more than I actually want to run. I can run, I just don't seem to want to do it badly enough right now. Especially because I very much fear I will need to get my right leg released as well. It just knocks the desire out of me, it's a hopelessness, of sorts, as you speak about. I run a few times a week and right now that's it for me. I hope that as I run throughout the winter that I will find my love for it again so when it warms up I will be ready to think about fall races again. Taking that time should also give me a clearer picture of where things stand with my right leg.
    Anyway, enjoy those good runs, one or two good ones a week would keep me going, and hopefully they'll start to multiply and you'll see more of them stringing together.
    Best wishes.


Join the Conversation!