The first month of marathon training is in the books. After the past two week’s long runs, I’ve scribbled “slogfest” as the lone descriptor in my training log. With humidity nearing 100% and temperatures creeping into the mid-eighties during my long run last Saturday morning, my inner monologue began debating the merits of downgrading the pace and walking it in. I would resolve to keep running and then a few minutes later the inner debate would begin again. Towards the end, every few steps I found that I had to keep deciding to run.
And this is exactly the reason I run marathons.
Marathon training is the best venue I know for practicing the act of succeeding. This is because we come to cross a marathon finish line exactly the same way that all great endeavors are achieved: we have to decide and then keep deciding.
The initial commitment to a goal is critical, but it’s the process of moving that goal from dream to reality that really matters. And that process takes grit – a sort of “tenacious, dogged perseverance” (source). There’s a burgeoning body of literature that says that the best predictor of success is grit, not talent. Interestingly, marathoning is the metaphor used by the researcher investigating the role of grit in success:
“We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change the trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”
– Duckworth et al. in “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals”
It is likely that grit can be learned. I remind myself of this on long runs – that the miles I’m logging in marathon training may have spillover benefits to the achievement of other long term goals. This grittiness I am cultivating has relevance beyond a marathon finish line. Because, in the end, whether it is marriage or career advancement or forgiveness or 26.2 miles, to accomplish great things we have to decide and then keep deciding.