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Saturday, June 13, 2020

What Does It Mean To Be A Talented Runner? Taking into account the types of talent.



Perhaps due to the popularity of David Epstein's talent-focused book " The Sports Gene, " much of today's high-level distance racing conversation is about talent: where it comes from, how to spot it, and how. develop it. Something that is often missing from the conversation is what it really means to be talented. We speak of "talented runners" as if there is a specific set of criteria by which we evaluate talent, but in reality, there are different types of talent that have no interdependence. By this, I mean that just because a runner is talented in one way does not necessarily imply that he or she will also be talented in another.
 
Generally speaking, I think there are (at least) four different ways in which one can be naturally talented as a runner. Some can be more easily evaluated than others.


Natural ability to run.

They mean he or she has a naturally higher baseline of aerobic endurance, someone who can run fast or take impressive workouts without much or no training on the road. Both, of course, are important, but for a coach, it doesn't matter either: you work with what comes home the first day. And if that newcomer runner can already run at a high level without any training history, that will always be a good thing. But this does not guarantee
 
success, as I will explain below, although people starting at a very high level of fitness naturally have a distinct advantage.
 
Natural ability to run is also the easiest type of talent to identify - all you need is a race or a time trial. At the school I'm currently coaching in, our best runner was seen as a freshman thanks to an aptitude test that all sprinters on the track team undergo: the Cooper test. This was devised by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, sometimes known as the "father of aerobics" (this being legitimate since he coined the word), for a quick and accurate field assessment of the maximum VO2 of a large number of subjects, for example, military recruits. The test is simple: cover as much ground as you can in 12 minutes, ideally running, but taking breaks on foot if necessary. The distance covered, in meters, is connected to a formula that predicts the maximum VO2. Cooper's test is reasonably accurate when compared to VO2 max test results. determined in the laboratory.
 
In our case, this first-year sprinter finished more than 500 meters ahead of everyone at the twelve-minute whistle. After a few weeks, he ran distance training with our best athletes.
 
For distance runners, any time trial of 1600 to 2400 meters should be sufficient to assess the natural running ability. Longer tests can mask true running ability because it is very difficult to perform a good 5k or 10k just from natural running ability - these events are simply too much based on training, not to mention the proper pace, what which is an acquired skill. Sprint and true middle distance athletes should be evaluated with shorter time trials that more accurately measure the shared aerobic and anaerobic components of the specific event: a 300m time trial for the 400 meters, for example, or a 500-time trial m for potential 800m runners.

 

Response to Training.

Any coach who has worked with a large number of athletes knows that people respond differently to the same training. This individual variability is one of the most interesting topics in exercise science research, as it has consequences beyond sport, the same variability of training response affects things like the interaction of exercise with risk factors for heart disease. and type 2 diabetes.
 

 
No one really knows why some people respond more strongly to training than others. Do non-responders require higher "doses" of training? Would they benefit more from a different type of training (eg high intensity / low volume instead of high mileage)? Are they just naturally closer to their genetic potential as runners, and is that why they get far fewer returns than someone with a great capacity for improvement? It's hard to say, but the existence of variable responses to similar workouts is undeniable after he has been involved in the sport for a few years.
 
This past fall, I led our high school cross country program in addition to our high school varsity team. At the beginning and end of the season, high school students always do a one-mile time trial on the track so they can see their progress throughout the season. The variability was impressive: some barely improved, while others beat their starting time by more than a minute. Of course, there were several factors that explained some of these variances: I noticed that better practice attendance tends to be associated with a greater margin for improvement (imagine yourself) and that some children are pressuring themselves more than others in workouts, so doing the same workout isn't necessarily getting the same encouragement. However, it is undeniable that some athletes seem to respond much more strongly than others to certain types of workouts.
 
As a coach, it is important not to label someone who does not improve your program as a "non-responder." It is much more likely that the failure lies in his training program: he is not giving that athlete the proper stimulus he needs to improve. Once you have figured out what works, however, make a note of it. Some athletes thrive on certain training classes but are bruised when exposed to others.

Injury Resistance Capacity.

 There are many risk factors in running injuries, but some runners appear resistant, if not waterproof, to overuse injuries. While some people experience stress fractures by running 20 miles a week, others can do 20 miles a day very well. There is much you can do to mitigate the risk of injury and improve your resilience, but as with the natural ability to run, some people start at a higher level of resilience than others.
 

 
Runners who spend their early years without significant injury are good candidates for a training program with higher mileage and higher amounts of quality. All other things being equal, the runner who can handle more training without injury is going to have a distinct advantage, especially in the long run. Particularly in the 10k, half marathon, and marathon, it is very difficult to reach your potential without high mileage and lots of fast long runs. Being able to handle this type of work without breaking can open opportunities that would otherwise be closed.

 

Mentality and Attitude.

 We like to tell ourselves that attitude, disposition, and mindset are things that develop or are instilled. But some of his behavior is natural; it is as much "you" as is your hair. Your core personality may be conditioned and shaped in different ways and may even change over time, but it remains, to some extent at least, an intrinsic part of who you are.
 

 
In most parameters, the great distance runners are highly variable: some are introverts, others are extroverts; some are rational thinkers, while others trust their emotions and intuition, and so on. They tend to have an instinctive understanding of how training and running works, they are quick to notice the difference between running fast and running hard. They have a sense of how and when they should attack in a race, and they have a high "personal sensitivity" or connection to their body, detecting exactly how hard they can push themselves before their body gives way. An ability to compartmentalize your career is also helpful, being passionate, but not obsessive, and being able to learn from disappointment, but move forward quickly.
 
It is more difficult to quantify and identify what type of personality traits make a good distance runner. There is no standardized personality test that can predict whether you have the mind and the spirit to be a great athlete. Rather, it is something that will probably only be noticed by an experienced coach. In fact, it is those desired personality traits; It may be that different training styles are better handled by different types of people. Or, if we strive to keep the athlete at the center of our training plan (which we should), we must say that the training program must be tailored to the personality and disposition of each individual athlete. This is almost a radical proposition: it could lead to two athletes with the same fitness levels training for the same event, doing very different workouts.
 
If you have studied the history of training, you know that athletes with similar training capabilities from the same event have used very different approaches to reach the top with equal success. Perhaps the great 800m runner Peter Snell, who was famous for his 20-mile and 100-mile-long runs, was not only physically inclined towards high mileage and aerobic endurance but also "metaphysically inclined", he adapted to his personality, his spirit, his disposition.

In the 1995 book Road to the Top, written by Adams state coach Joe Vigil, some perspective is provided, warning that we should not cross out athletes who appear to lack the appropriate serenity of mind to be great runners:
 
“Sometimes we get in contact with people who hope that their emptiness can be filled by someone who imparts a vision to them and directs their energies in the direction of their goals. As a coach, I never rated those athletes as lazy. They were just athletes whose energies had never been tapped in the right way and never been motivated to act. "
 
As with adaptability, it is important not to use mindset and attitude as a way to dismiss runners. However, make sure you don't overlook athletes with the right mindset. Even if they lack other aspects of talent, their ability to improve and produce great performances can be tremendous.

 

Summary: What is Talent?

 The reason I analyzed talent in these four categories is that I think they are mostly independent of each other. You may have a high natural level of fitness but low adaptability to training, or a strong mentality and physical condition but poor resilience to injury. It is important for the coach to consider these four factors when planning training or when trying to recruit young athletes with potential. Seeing talent through a single lens (typically the lens of high natural running ability) can distract you from athletes who can achieve the same level or higher level of fitness by exploiting their others.
 

 
talents, whether it's high adaptability to training, good injury resistance, or a strong mindset for distance racing. Because I believe these factors are randomly distributed across the population, it is extremely rare to find a talented athlete in all four talent categories. There are tremendously accomplished athletes at the highest levels of competition who have decidedly zero talent in at least one respect. Generally, the coach's job is to take advantage of the talents a runner has, to overcome the areas in which he or she is weak. If you ever run into a runner who is talented in all four areas, he or she is surely destined for greatness, and you are a lucky coach.
 

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