Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 7 Jan 2000 09:29:02 -0500

Enduring and Surviving

(from RC 290)

Speed is a gift given to you by your parents. You can increase innate running speed only marginally, then can hold it only briefly -- both in terms of distances run at that rate and years of racing at top speed.

Endurance is a gift you give yourself. It is largely earned, and is available to any runner to tap and increase through extended effort. Not everyone can run faster, but anyone can go longer -- both in miles and years.

Distance running and racing attract us because they reward endurance. This sport is less a test of inborn talent than of survival skills.

As a runner I've never won any prize worth mentioning here. My parents didn't pass along enough speed for that.

But I've been a winner in another way that runners measure victory. I've endured and survived as a runner from the 1950s to the brink of the the new century -- and during those decades have outlasted generations of the faster runners I never could have outrun.

I don't say this to boast. I'm sorry to see runners drop out early, especially when preventable mistakes are to blame.

Making mistakes is unavoidable. Correcting them is a big part of the survival process.

Over the decades I've made every mistake that a runner could, and have stumbled over many of them more than once. I'm happy to have learned enough from them to be a survivor, which might be the highest goal to which a runner can aspire.

Ron Clarke, the "Gebrselassie" of his era, took huge chunks off the world 5000 and 10,000 records in the 1960s. Yet through unlucky timing and for lack of a kick he never won an Olympic medal.

In his book The Unforgiving Minute, Clarke wrote about the "twin impostors." Success is never as good as it appears if it stops you from searching for anything better, he said. Failure is never as bad as it looks if it makes you look for a way out.

My many failures taught me more than success would have. They forced me to examine what went wrong and to set it right.

Jim Hill asked me recently to write about the "seven most common mistakes that runners make." His company, SportHill, is now mailing the resulting brochure to anyone who requests it (call 800/622-8444).

The hardest part of this project was cutting the list to seven. I lifted this number from the manuscript of my upcoming book, Running 101, and barely made a dent in the possibilities.

In the SportHill discussion of common mistakes that runners make, I'm not saying these are the only ways you can fail. I'm not promising that you'll never err again.
You don't want to avoid all mistakes (and couldn't if you tried) because then you'd miss the teaching they provide. All I hope to do is help you shortcut the learning process so you don't take as long as I did to make your course corrections.

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