Was it inadequate training that forced them to quit? Or lack of resilience? Or both?
The term ‘resilience’ can be defined in many contexts: In ecology, the capacity of an ecosystem to recover from climate change; in engineering and construction, the ability of buildings and infrastructure to absorb assaults without suffering complete failure; and in psychology, an individual's ability to adapt in the face of adverse conditions. In endurance sports there are two aspects to resilience: physical and mental. Is our body capable of withstanding prolonged stress and is our mind strong enough to keep us pushing through it?
When I was in school, we were given a handout in a chemistry class that had sketches of laboratory equipment on one side and motivational text on the other. I hung that sheet of paper with the text on it over my desk at home, brought it with me to college and still have it today. Those words have guided me and inspired me throughout my life. Here’s what it says:
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 alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
So, if we believe in the truth of being rewarded by persistence and determination, and we add to that the definition above for resilience, then we can see that success has little to do with physical condition, environment, nor money, but rather is wholly reliant on one’s mental focus.
An ultra marathon is said to be 90% mental, and the remaining 10%... is also mental. If that’s the case, can anyone who is strong-willed just go out on a whim and run one? Probably, yes. There are many such documented cases. But most of us do a lot of conditioning and training to boost our performance and minimize the physical pain. Training plans for any distance race can be found in legions of books and everywhere on-line. But is there a method to train our minds? Of course there is, just ask any psychologist. But I personally believe that to be truly resilient we have to love what we are doing. We have to be passionate about it. Something that we love so much that we are willing to suffer for it. May it be sports, work, family or a social movement, I believe the single most important motivational criteria to master resilience and achieve our goals is passion.
This topic of resilience will be discussed next week in a forum called the Eckert Talkrunde where I have been invited to be on the panel along with other experts in sports therapy, training, coaching and even an Olympic medallist.
I’m curious to see what the others believe… and if I’ll get some insight as to why even some of the most hopeful endurance athletes only rarely cross the finish line.
*Of course I've documented all the gory details of the entire race in nearly 30 pages of text which are just waiting for the right time and place to air them ;)