Yesterday morning my cross country team attended an invitational meet. There is a phenomenal runner who has held the meet record, and really leaves everyone else in the dust. When my team asked about how he got so good, I think I said something about genetics, body size, things that make one a naturally better runner. In hindsight, I think I might have said these things because I didn't want them to feel badly about themselves if they never get to his elite level of competition. Most of us never will.
But then we attended the awards ceremony for the meet, where they announced that this runner not only holds the meet record but broke his own record by about 45 seconds. I was struck by how much he had improved since I saw him run last year. He must have worked really hard, I thought.
Later that evening, I went out for a run myself. I thought about myself as a runner, and reflected on how much I had changed: getting faster, getting stronger. I wondered how much faster and stronger could I get if I pushed myself? Or am I just a naturally slower runner than the fastest of the fast?
This train of thought made me think of the recent mindset discussion I read at Quantum Progress. I worried that emphasizing the natural talents brought out in our DNA might give my runners permission NOT to try to get better. I want them to know that the elite runners ALSO work hard to achieve what they do, and any of us can get better with effort.