Back when I ran cross country and track in high school, I used to think being good was mostly about talent. At that time, I was working hard and stayed persistent, but I never could achieve what I wanted in running. Still, I made it to six state finals between the two sports and was part of a 4×4 team that medaled at the state finals. Not bad. But beside me, my teammates rose and surpassed me. I was always happy for them, but wondered what they had that I didn’t and how I could get it. In the end, I told myself I just wasn’t good enough.
Same thing in academics. Throughout high school, I attended a half-day advanced math and science academy away from the regular school with the best and brightest of my grade. I’m a writer. The written word is where my academic talents most firmly lie. However, I believe I was above average at math and science. But studying along with the smartest students in my class, I thought myself on the “dumb end of the smart kid spectrum.”
How terrible was that? I was ripping my own self-esteem and worth away from myself by letting myself believe I wasn’t good enough.
It took me a few years to realize what I had taken from myself, and it was a hard look in the mirror that made me realize I really was a very intelligent person. Sure, I was never going to become a physicist, but I do have a gift of writing that many people don’t. Writing also is something I’ve worked hard to improve and wanted to become much better at.
And there it lies: Hard work and will.
In the last two years, I’ve been back at running with big goals in mind (cough 3:30 marathon cough). The problem was I had so many problems with injury, nutrition and asthma that I haven’t been able to work hard enough to see good results. When I did race, I saw a glimmer of potential in my new running home of longer distances. Potential doesn’t guarantee a thing, I told myself.
For a long time, I continued to judge myself with the standards I had set in high school and thought I could only run so fast in the mile, 5K and beyond. But one day, I saw a tweet from 2:31 marathoner Molly Pritz. She wrote last fall she had finished a 20-mile run with the last mile in 5:10. Her high school mile PR was 5:36. That’s what hard work does.
Over time, I realized I just was not tough enough in high school. I’ve written about that. Thankfully, maturity added significantly to my strength. After reading Molly’s tweet, I finally shed those old standards. It does not matter what I have done. My PRs from six and seven years ago mean nothing. Absolutely nothing. What matters is my willingness to work hard.
The will to prepare means everything.
Now I approach training with an open mind. I’m not afraid of failure and the sky is the limit. Truly, I have no idea what I am capable of in the 5K to the marathon. It’s very exciting for me in and outside of running because more than anything I cannot wait to put in the work. Never have I been this excited about training. The demons are gone. All that remains is to get at it and find out what I can do.