Friday thoughts #4: Resilience

Jungles in Cumbernauld
What is resilience anyway? Some call it mental toughness. I like to think of it as your ability to ride out problems. In the first Friday thought I touched upon some of the themes that align to resilience and a few folks have asked me to go a bit deeper on it.

Being able to recover from a setback is critical, not just in a race but in your running career. In golf there is a great stat known as “bounce back”. The analysts track how often a player makes birdie or better after a bogey or worse. Lo and behold, the greatest golfers are the ones who who have the character to learn from, then accept the errors and move on. There is also the classic stat about Michael Jordan who has made more game winning shots than any other NBA player in history, but as he himself often points out, he’s also missed more game winning chances. He says, “26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

The point being you have to be prepared to risk missing in order to win. And your risk appetite will be in no small way influenced by your resilience.

In running, and especially the longer distances, resilience is important strength to be able to draw upon. It almost always starts with awareness. Whether that is about your emotional or physical state, or the environment you are in, it doesn’t matter. Just taking the time to be conscious of what is happening will allow you to control what will happen.

Here’s the rub, awareness without honesty is like Ant without Dec. One sided, not as impactful and possibly with a giant forehead.

You have to be brutally truthful with yourself. It’s easy to look outward when things don’t go well, seeking out extenuating factors that absolve yourself of accountability for whatever the miss may be. That miss could be a target time, or training session, etc. If for example you skipped a few longs runs or effort sessions in training then blew up in the final stages of your target race, start by looking to the skipped runs before talking about the weather.

Disappointment and nerves are the by-product of competing. And that is not only at the top end of race competition, just aiming to best yourself is competing. You earn the right to be nervous. Just the same as you run the risk of disappointment. But accepting that is part of making yourself more resilient, and in turn more successful. The opportunity far outweighs the risk, so long as honesty applies. Show me a runner, or any sportsperson for that matter, who hasn’t experienced disappointment I’ll show you a sensible tweet from Donald Trump.

It’s easy to see failures as cul-de-sacs, and they can be if you keep doing the same thing over and over again. And we all know the definition of insanity, don’t we? That’s right, ultrarunning…

Failures are merely stepping stones to your goals. It is very possible multiple failures will be necessary to achieve just a single aim. By using the experience honestly and with great awareness, you can not only own your present and future, you can celebrate the past that helps you shape them.


4 replies to “Friday thoughts #4: Resilience

  1. Golfing stat James. When golfers have a short putt of 5 feet or less – they sink far more par putts than birdie putts! Obviously concentration is greater when they could drop a shot rather when they could gain one.
    Stats from over ten years on U.S. PGA tour. Resilience would appear to be greater when you are threatened ( as in dropping a shot) Back to the mind games again. p. s. That game yesterday was as one sided as a North Korean election!

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