Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Here begins the taper

On Saturday I did my 20 mile run - the longest of my marathon training, three weeks before the race.

I was a bit nervous and was very grumpy with my children the evening before! I sorted my playlist (podcasts - Kermode & Mayo, Marathon Training Academy, The Food Programme, Simon Mayo); got my fuels ready (one SIS gel as soon as I got out of bed at 0530, the one each 35-45 minutes during the run, and a protein bar for as soon as I got home); planned my route (heading East or West along the coastal roads depending on the wind direction!); then I set my alarm clock and settled down for an early night (9pm). I was a bit too excited to sleep, but nothing ever keeps me awake for long!

I like the wind to be against me on the way out, and giving me a helpful push as I head home. So on this occassion I headed west - noodling around the newbuild housing developments at Leith and Granton as I headed for Barnton, Cramond, and back along the coastal roads and paths. The weather was dry and bright, and it was daylight by the time I went out - lovely

But it was utterly brilliant. Awesome. I don't know if it's endorphins released by the effort, or being really chuffed at my achievement, but afterwards, colours were brighter, people were friendlier, smells were smellier - every sense I had was heightened!

And tastes were tastier... I can be sure of this because my bacon & fried egg roll was really, really delicious!! And the protein bar was really, really unpleasant!

So now I start to wind down my distances - which is apparently its own set of challenges and my family should watch out for even more grumping from me!

Talent vs Hard Work

I heard a brilliant episode of FourThought on Radio 4 tonight. Matthew Syed is a former table tennis champion who was spending 15 minutes of airtime talking about the tensions between talent and hard work, and which of these is the key to success.

Syed argued that anybody who is any good at anything has practiced that activity for thousands of hours. Even Mozart, as a young boy, had spent thousands of hours working on his piano playing, and his progress had not always been astronomical - he progressed at a normal pace, but spent so long working hard at it that he became the child prodigy he was.

London's black cab drivers have a massive knowledge of the capital's roads and how to get around them. In fact the relevant part of their brain is larger than it is in non-cab drivers! But they weren't born that way - they developed their brains through hard work and practice.

While talent may be important, it is hard work that leads to success.

Also Syed discussed how, if the key component to success is talent, there would be no point in working hard. And talented people would always expect to rise to the top.  Which would give us a lazy society, where nobody bothered to work subjects they weren't top of the class in.

Running Guru Jack Daniels makes similar points in his book Daniels' Running Formula. Assuming there can be no hard work without motivation, Daniels believes

"there are four kinds of distance runners:
1. Those who have inherent ability and the motivation to use that ability
2. Those who have the ability to do well but aren't motivated to use their ability
3. Those who lack much ability but have great motivation to achieve success
4. Those who lack ability and aren't motivated."

While Daniels states that it's the type-1 runners who are champions, he also helpfully says that it is type-3 runners who are "fun to coach and deserve your appreciation and attention."!

Daniels adds that opportunity and direction are key factors in achieving success in running.

Paul McKenna makes more similar points in Change Your Life in Seven Days. He talks about "neural pathways", and how learning new habits - like believing in your own success - is a matter of strenthening those pathways in your brain.

So, whether or not you are born with "talent" - you can still achieve ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO.