“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.