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What Makes A Good Runner - Hard Work, Talent, Or Purposeful Practice

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Hi, new to the forum after reading 'Level Up Your Life' as I'm sure many others are, cracking book! I really connected with the idea of pushing and working harder to achieve and strive for what you want. Which leads nicely into my question, I recently wrote a piece on the subject of Hard Work v Talent specifically in running. Which plays the lead role, at what point does hard work surpass natural talent and how much of a factor does where you live play on development?


I'd like to hear your thoughts. This is an area Steve has convinced me to research and one day write a book. I am passionate about runners finding their true potential and it wold be a legacy goal to see such work come to fruition. So I guess the research starts now and where better to seek out some advise and thoughts. So, what do you think and have you guys read any books that may help me going forward?

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I gotta be honest, my spidey sense is tingling bad. This is your first post and it contains a link. The domain name is your username. Sure looks to me like your advertising your website and not an actually NF member.


Where is your introduction post? What guild are you in? Where in your fitness journey are you? Surely a legit rebel would have that information and perhaps share it to gain our trust before trying to get us to click a link, no?


Sorry If I'm being unfairly challenging but no way I will click your link.

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Hey. I've got a blog!! ----> The Dilnad Can!

This is how I did it. This is how you too can do it! ----> http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/09/28/learn-how-an-office-worker-lost-100-lbs-saved-his-own-life-and-became-a-superhero/


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Thanks for pointing that out Dilnad all taken on board. I have deleted the link so the true purpose of the post should now be obvious.


I was a little rash with the original and didn't take the time to see how it may come across...in all honesty the link was there to show in more detail the topic I was asking about. It's the question that really matters, I have no interest in attracting traffic, as you suggested I'd have done a far better job of hiding my intentions.


i just want to gather as much research and feedback on the debate as possible and here seems like the perfect place to get some real opinions.


believe me or not, your choice but the intention was never self promotion. Wouldn't delete the link otherwise. But I do see how it came across that way.

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Thanks Darren. I'm just a pretty skeptical dude when it comes to the web, strangers, and links LOL. I would however recommend you might do well with an introduction post to say hi and let us know who you are :)


I have little to say on your subject other than, for myself, I don't believe in natural talent, at least not within myself. Running has been a struggle of pure mediocrity. I'd guess most of us runners lack natural talent. We rarely medal in races. Most of us are simply competing against ourselves trying to be a tiny bit better than yesterday.


I'm not sure how geographical location impacts overall and final performance but it sure has an impact on training. For example, I cannot run a greater than a10 mile run from my home. I don't have the area of sidewalks or safe to run in roadways to allow me to do this. I now have to drive somewhere for my very long runs. This adds car functionality, gasoline, budgetary constraints and traffic impacts to my training.


People in Kenya have a general lack of paved roadways. Most of them spend their entire career training on dirt roads. This is lower impact than the pavement and concrete we mostly run on in the US. The general lack of running on these harder surfaces every day is thought to be a factor in the Kenyans performance. They have fresher, healthier legs.


In the end, I'm not sure how much of a role these things have vs natural talent but I do feel their impact on  a training program can hamper training.


That was a lot of blabber randomly about related running stuff. Hope there is something of value there.


Mike / Dil

Hey. I've got a blog!! ----> The Dilnad Can!

This is how I did it. This is how you too can do it! ----> http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/09/28/learn-how-an-office-worker-lost-100-lbs-saved-his-own-life-and-became-a-superhero/


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Think what's needed first of all is a definition of what a "good" runner is. Does it mean someone who's regularly competitive for age group prizes at local races, does it mean someone who meets Boston or London good-for-age qualifying time? Does it mean someone who's run a marathon in under 3 hours... in under 3:30, in under 4... under 5.... or at all? Does it mean completing couch to 5k? Is it just someone whose running aspirations fit their commitment/plans? Is it just someone who runs regularly? And so on....


For me, I'd say the best predictor of someone becoming a good runner (however defined) is that they enjoy running. If someone enjoys running, or can imagine enjoying it, they've got a chance. If not, they'll last as long as their willpower does.


I think expressions like "fulfilling true potential" are a bit of a red herring. If I want to fulfill my true potential as a runner, I'd have to save up, quit my job, concentrate on it full time and sacrifice everything or nearly everything else in my life to that end. And that's true for everyone. Who knows how long or how fast I could be after a year or two of that? But I'm not going to do it, and I think very few people would do that even if they had the means.




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 Level 4 Human Adventurer / Level 4 Scout, couch to 5k graduate, six time marathon finisher.



Current 5k Personal Best: 22:00 / 21:23 / 21:13 / 21:09 / 20:55 / 20:25 (4th July 17)

Current 5 mile PB: 36:41 35:27 34:52 (10th May 17)

Current 10k PB: 44:58 44:27 44:07 44:06 43:50 (29th June 17)

Current Half Marathon PB: 1:41:54 1:38:24 1:37:47 1:37:41 (14th June 15)

Current Marathon PB: 3:39:34 3:29:49 (10th April 16)


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I'm about halfway through training for my first marathon right now, and I think patience is what makes you a good runner.  Because there really aren't any shortcuts, at least not for long distances.


Obviously, that means doing the hard work and purposeful practice, but it's definitely a skill/discipline unto itself.

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5k - 21:29

10k - 47:26 43:29

21.1 - 2:05:26 1:44:21

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On 8/30/2017 at 10:22 PM, TheOtherScott said:

I'm about halfway through training for my first marathon right now, and I think patience is what makes you a good runner.  Because there really aren't any shortcuts, at least not for long distances.



Regardless of what your end goal is, it takes time to work on that base and improve. When I first started running I could barely go 1km without going out of my mind, the "Is it done yet" thought would always be present now it's as if 1km is a hop skip and a jump.

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You will hear a lot of the elite runners talk about the first time they raced. Often they will have performed better, with minimal training,  than most people ever could with the best training possible.  Other people can train like a pro and just never see results. No matter what we do, sometimes our genetics aren't designed for us to succeed in certain things.


I ran seriously for many years (about 20?) For years I worked only part time, had coaches, and built my life around training. And I was just never good. I placed poorly. 


When I moved on to mountain biking it was a different story. I did decent from the get go. Who knows why.

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Disclaimer: Genetics vs Practice is a subset of the "nature vs nurture" debate which probably no one in this forum is qualified to speak on authoritatively. The following opinion is my own and I make no claims to have the One True Answer on either an epistemic or scientific basis.


A while back I read a book that touched the interplay between genetics and practice in sports. (Unfortunately both my memory and Google are failing me so I can't cite my source.) Genetics, specifically body type, has more impact on your abilities than it does other areas such musical ability or drawing. I've seen this play out in my own life. My build, lean and long-legged, lends me an advantage when running. However I'm incredibly hard-pressed to put on muscle. What other men can accomplish in a matter of weeks takes me a matter of months. That being said, the author of the book was of the story of the untrained amateur beating out the seasoned professional and I agree with him/her. (I think that's a dangerous part of the national fabric of US culture, but that's another rant.) Just because I'm a decent runner doesn't mean I can just up and run a marathon without practice. It takes deliberate focused training to achieve an endstate.


TLDR: Genetics will only carry you so far. The rest is deliberate training.

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"If you would improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid." - Epictetus

"You just gotta listen to your body, unless it's saying anything about stopping, pain, your joints, or needing water."

Level 20 Pilgrim (Adventurer 7, Assassin 3, Druid 2, Monk 10, Ranger 5, Rebel 9, Scout 10, Warrior 4)

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That's a good question. Like Rostov said, a lot of it comes down to your definition of a "good" runner. At the very top end it's no doubt a mix of talent, training, natural ability, time, money....the list goes on. For he rest of us it's more a question of setting attainable goals and working to meet them. I this space IMO the best tool to bring to bear is consistency. The runner who puts in consistent training week after week is going to show the most improvement in the long run.

Evidence of this can be shown at events like parkrun, which are weekly free 5k races around the world. I used to volunteer at one and it was amazing to see the progress people made after a year or two.

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Scout Commander (ret.)

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Genetics likely puts a floor and ceiling on physical performance but nobody gets a free ride. I know for me it takes less effort to put up a reasonable decent race time running but twice as much effort leads to a mediocre result lifting. Just the way I’m put together. 


Dont undersell how much of it is cognitive or psychological. Does a person research and experiment with training strategy? How much do they enjoy it? How tolerant of discomfort are they? Anything much over a 500 yard dash and you can ask “Why am I pushing myself too hard?” I can tell you in the few races I’ve done I’ve probably beat folks in better physical shape than I when I was willing to embrace the suck (They may not being seeking a pr, have another race, etc. I’m not saying I’m a better runner simply a better time that day).


"For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm."

Just remember that Scooty Puff jr sucks!

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I think something has to be said for having a history of athletics and a healthy set of lungs. When I was first getting into running, I had never been an athlete, and I have asthma, and I couldn't get below a 14-minute mile whatsoever. I tried for months & months. Cut to years later, and I'm still at like a 12-minute mile. I just haven't been able to get down further and I run regularly. Some people just aren't meant for speed. 


That said, I refuse to give up on running altogether. Everyone tells me I should. I kind of like it, even though I'm slow. Once I gave up on the notion of being fast, it became fun. My belief is that a "good" runner is someone who runs and enjoys it. Speed isn't really the point. (Or, if it is, don't tell me that.)

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