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Talent vs hard work

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  • 18-07-2018 6:44pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 10,432 ✭✭✭✭


    The question has come up a couple of times recently, in RRQ and Swashbuckler’s Spotlight stint. Basically it’s this: does achieving good times (I believe a 35-min 10k was offered as a benchmark) come down to running talent (ie good genes) or hard work (i.e. rigorous training, careful diet, S&C, lifestyle choices leading to adequate sleep etc.). The consensus seems to be that it’s a topic deserving its own thread, so here it is.

    Personally I think hard work is very important, talent or no, but that it only gets you so far. Genetic advantage doesn’t just help with form, training response and race day performance, but also with stuff like weight management, general health advantages and resilience. That said, hard work can get you pretty far (say to the times on the 10 Round Numbers or a bit faster). And then there’s the mental side, which is probably a third aspect to consider, in which one develops the mental toughness to maximize the potential from their work/talent.

    A debate worth having in its own thread, I think.


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,834 ✭✭✭OOnegative


    All i’ll say......


  • Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 16,109 Mod ✭✭✭✭adrian522


    I think every runner has an upper limit on their potential that is based mainly on genetic factor. How hard and smart they train determines how close they go to reaching that potential.

    I think most of us posting on here haven't come close to realising that potential but it is fair to say that some if us will progress a lot faster than others, just from being better able to react to the training.

    Some people will run a sub 3 off a decent block of training while for others it might take several cycles of little improvements to get their.

    I think 35 min in the 10K is out of reach for a lot of people.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,432 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    To be fair, I’m not sure if that’s 35:00 or 35:59 (not that I’ll ever run either). :p


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,508 ✭✭✭✭_Brian


    In any sport you reach a ceiling above which hard work won’t improve, this is your genetic limit.
    Everyone has a different ceiling so a group putting in the same hard work will achieve different levels of performance.

    Now, how many actually ever achieve their ceiling is hard to say, I’d say it’s small, elite athletes, a handful in any sport.

    At any level below these elite athletes more hard work will pretty much always pay off as more performance.

    Talent on its own isn’t enough, the talent portion of the equation is only noticeable at the very top.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 221 ✭✭Safiri


    Talent plays a huge role in your potential. For anyone who doesn't believe so, just get a muscle biopsy to find out your ratio of fast to slowtwitch muscle fibers and thats only the start before you get body type, genetically inherited mitochondrial dna, musculoskeletal structure, testosterone levels while in the womb. All these and a million other things contribute to talent and all make a difference. Usain Bolt and Olympic powerlifters for instance are probably never going to break 35 minutes for 10k no matter how hard they train, they're bodies are not made for it, this trickles down into others who are less extreme outliers too.

    I think it's silly to say that everyone can run a certain time and generalise to everyone as per example of 35 minutes( number one because you've already lobbed off 50% of the population straight away who are women, Then you have taken away another huge proportion of that who are of the older people where a time like that becomes locally elite, national class and then onto world class depending on age and this is before you take into account the people who lack the physical talent in general. When I hear things like everyone should be able to run this time or that on here and the 50 times a yeart this comes up on letsrun. First thought is always that I bet that time is close to the PB of the person who posted and is completely lopsided by their experience. People like to think that it was all hard work that got them there and everyone else should be able to do the same. Talent is always always going to be a belp curve when it come to distrubution, there are extremes at either end a glut of averagely talented people in the middle. Talent is also psychological when it comes to atitude, work ethic and such. Some people may have huge physical talent but be mentally dry in the talent department or vice versa. It's not something that can or should be generalised down to a certain time that people just pull out the top of their head because their can't be any substance to something so wide-ranging and diverse that it cannot be understood.

    Forget about what everyone else thinks should be achieveable and work with the cards you were dealt, there's only one way to find out what your potenial is and thats through EPO hard work. The truth is that there are probably very few people on this planet who have hit their ceiling and it's probably much higher than what they believe it to be and that's probably all that people need to know or think about, not some arbitrary generalised time.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,338 ✭✭✭eyrie


    I don't know a whole lot about this from a running-specific point of view, but it applies to many areas and I think it's a kind of misleading proposition. It's one of those questions where to me anyway they are obviously both very significant, and I don't see how it's an either/or. I read the discussions on the other threads about this, and agreed with several points made on both sides.
    Can you be massively talented and work moderately hard and do better than people who work non stop but don't have the genetic advantages? I'd say so. Is the opposite also true? Pretty sure it is. So it's really only decisive/meaningful at an individual level.

    To me the most relevant point is that, at an amateur/hobby level if Person A has genetic advantages (or 'talent', whatever that is) it stands to reason that his/her hard work will yield much more than Person B working just as hard who doesn't have that advantage. In practical training terms that seems more important than what theoretical time either person could reach if the stars aligned perfectly. Person A is going to run faster times than Person B (assuming other factors are similar for both). Not to mention even the capacity to work hard (or how hard) is affected by genetic factors...

    With that said, I also think hard work will be the deciding factor in many cases, maybe even more so the higher up the ranks you go, given that most people (elites included) won't ever get near the limits of their potential. I reckon that hard work and a clever approach to training can yield continuous improvements for a very long time, if not almost infinitely. And then there's the mental side, which is massive. Look at someone like Desi Linden who won the Boston Marathon this year and certainly describes herself as not the most naturally gifted runner but a very hard worker and she seems to have quite remarkable mental strength/attitude.

    I guess that's a long winded way of saying they are two of many factors that contribute to how well someone runs, but not opposing elements. The more of the different elements anyone can employ (talent and hard work sure, but also resources, time, support, absence of stress, etc etc) the better they'll do, all other things being equal. But that may be getting off topic... :rolleyes:


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,400 ✭✭✭ger664


    Talent is where you start hard work determines where you get to. What defines hard work read krustys log.


  • Registered Users Posts: 921 ✭✭✭benjamin d


    I'm sure a complicating factor is that talent will often be spotted at a young age when hard work hasn't even come into it yet. Someone with talent has a good chance of being funnelled into elite programmes or just generally being encouraged in their sport whereas the hard worker may not realise they can get results until much later.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,414 ✭✭✭Testosterscone


    For me personally, in the context of the demographic of posters here, I don't think talent is the driving force behind improvement. I agree with Safiri on some points especially using an arbitrary figure but given that most people here are playing catch up in terms of training and aerobic foundation, good form and general good practices to the point where age or durability (one could argue that resilience is a form of talent) limit this long before you get to the realms of talent being a driver.

    Yes talent may get someone there a little bit quicker but that does not mean that with hard work others couldn't get there

    Ger's point regarding what hard work looks like is particularly important (and Krusty is always a good poster body for this) because our perception of hard work is skewed these days. I saw Magness using the term "hack culture" recently which perfectly sums up modern mentalities effectively ignoring the fact that some times time investment is needed rather than always trying to get more from less.

    We are a more sedentary group of people these days and many of us do not have an athletic background and as such have had little to no developmental stage at the beginning of our running career - Many have never ran a race under 5k or cross country race/ done any form of drill work/ been on a track/ have any input from a high quality coach on how we run etc.

    I often get people dismiss some of my times as talent "because I ran as a kid" and yet they don't actually ask what that involved. Looking back on it now many of my early teenage years were spent as follows

    Mon/Wed Easy run followed by circuits, hurdle techniques/high jump

    Tues/Thursday Warm up, drills, hurdle mobility work, speedwork

    Saturday circuits

    I spent approximately half of my training week (about 4 hours of maybe 7) for years growing up doing running specific non running exercises. The mileage crept up little by little but it was only one part to the overall cog. When I see people dismiss times as "talent" at the non elite level particularly in this country often I feel it is a cop out from the many facets of training which can be worked on.

    At elite level yes it does play a larger role but this is because at that level most are putting in the same work so that variable is taken out of the equation somewhat (Most marathoners are doing 110-130 mpw and 12/13 sessions etc)


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,199 ✭✭✭Keeks


    What defines "Talent"?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,432 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    Keeks wrote: »
    What defines "Talent"?

    For me it’s genes - the ‘right’ body type, muscle fibre makeup (e.g. fast vs slow twitch), aerobic system etc. I’ve also mentioned resilience, ability to manage/maintain weight etc. in this category.

    Maybe you can put some ‘hard work’ elements in the skills category - skills can be learned through repetition, the drills etc that Testosterscone mentions. (Maybe skill is a better way to think of ‘hard work’ actually?)

    I’m sure there are other elements. Psychology might also be thought of as a skill - or is there a genetic element to being able to endure pain, something women are supposed to be better at, for instance (not sure if this has been proven)?


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    It took me 47 attempts, and about 6 years to get under 25 seconds for 200m. A new lad in our group, late 20s, after 5 weeks training did it on his first attempt, improving to 24 flat on his second attempt.

    We are not all equal.

    Talent determines where you can get, regardless of standard, and hard work is needed to get towards that upper limit.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,582 ✭✭✭Swashbuckler


    I guess I should chime in with my tuppence seeing as I was the originator of the controversial comments. Haha.

    Firstly arbitrarily picking 35.xx as a benchmark was probably unwise. I'll hold my hands up to that. For context the debate stemmed from a question from a poster in here asking at amateur level how big a part do you think talent plays. There are any number of ways you could approach a question like that i.e in terms of maximizing ones potential or in terms of competitor A vs competitor B etc etc. I was addressing the maximizing ones potential aspect.
    I strongly believe at our level we are so far from the ceiling of our capabilities that talent is not the dominant factor. There are so many elements to training, nutrition, lifestyle etc etc that most of us don't maximise - talent isn't really at play (in my opinion).


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,414 ✭✭✭Testosterscone


    Chivito550 wrote: »
    It took me 47 attempts, and about 6 years to get under 25 seconds for 200m. A new lad in our group, late 20s, after 5 weeks training did it on his first attempt, improving to 24 flat on his second attempt.

    We are not all equal.

    Talent determines where you can get, regardless of standard, and hard work is needed to get towards that upper limit.

    I look at that and see the opposite

    In that time you spent 6 years training, changed focus, changed supplementary work etc.

    This is a testament to hard work getting you to that level not talent

    Yes talent got runner B there quicker but it was not a limiting factor in your case.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    I look at that and see the opposite

    In that time you spent 6 years training, changed focus, changed supplementary work etc.

    This is a testament to hard work getting you to that level not talent

    Yes talent got runner B there quicker but it was not a limiting factor in your case.

    Yeh it wasn’t meant as a negative. I got there through hard work, and am proud of that. But at the same time, it is hard not to acknowledge that some people are just better, off a fraction of the training.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,414 ✭✭✭Testosterscone


    Chivito550 wrote: »
    Yeh it wasn’t meant as a negative. I got there through hard work, and am proud of that. But at the same time, it is hard not to acknowledge that some people are just better, off a fraction of the training.

    I don't think anyone is saying anything contrary to that more that talent is almost never the limiting factor especially at the level we are talking about.


  • Registered Users Posts: 75 ✭✭chasingpaper


    Chivito, what was his background before switching to sprints?
    He may have been developing sprinting ability indirectly.
    Often people from team sports are in good shape to jump into sprints and do relatively well. They have developed power, reactivity, general fitness and low body fat. Their mechanics may be off but the have the sprinting engine. 
    With distance it seems more rare that other sports develop the aerobic engine and muscular endurance to deal with long races without a long time of specific training.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,983 ✭✭✭Duanington


    It's a tough one to answer without having a good, solid definition of what we consider talent.
    BUT - I think if you look at it the other way, limiting factors are limiting factors, whatever slant you put on it. Body shape, body type, age, work\life balance, mental state, pain threshold, physiological makeup etc...there are so many things that can limit someone's development and hard work cannot push that limit back as far as it could in someone without those limiting factors.

    Having said all of that, its probably true that most people probably don't work hard enough to reach their true potential, whatever that is


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    Chivito, what was his background before switching to sprints?
    He may have been developing sprinting ability indirectly.
    Often people from team sports are in good shape to jump into sprints and do relatively well. They have developed power, reactivity, general fitness and low body fat. Their mechanics may be off but the have the sprinting engine. 
    With distance it seems more rare that other sports develop the aerobic engine and muscular endurance to deal with long races without a long time of specific training.

    I think he played rugby alright. Not certain re what position (somewhere in the backs) or level though.


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,704 ✭✭✭✭RayCun


    Talent is always what the other guy has, the one faster than you. While everything you achieve is down to hard work in training.

    That said, there are always guys that you think, even if I wasn't training well, and they were training really hard, I'd still be better than them.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    RayCun wrote: »
    Talent is always what the other guy has, the one faster than you. While everything you achieve is down to hard work in training.

    +1 on this.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,208 ✭✭✭shotgunmcos


    2 similar blokes, demographic etc
    A had elite athletic genes and B had professional musician genes

    A never trains, B trains hard and usually beats A
    B never trains, A never trains and usually beats B
    B never trains, A trains hard and beats B always
    B trains hard, A trains hard and usually beats B

    All things being equal, talent will win usually
    Wasted talent, hard work will win almost always

    Some people are just better than most others at stuff.
    I know a lad who I rarely see out training but I know his dad is still pretty good on the scene for his age etc.. This lad shows up and runs 33-34mins off a hard swim and bike. Almost always has the fastest run split in a triathlon. Maybe he trains like a man possessed in secret but at his 33 min place he also looks like he is cantering along. I think he might be 32 flat or thereabouts

    I know another lad who is about 35-36 off the bike and 33-34 straight 10k. About 74 half marathon. Known as a very good runner. I know he works bloody hard (similar work ethic to to Zico) Gaa background and started out running 10k in 40mins in gaa shorts.

    Running was never my strong thing (apart from running 10.9 for 100m as a teen) but couldn't say I could never get to 35. Its more about focusing on it exclusively and working a lot over years (maybe I'm too old to even bother)

    My bro is an interesting case. Never the fastest guy on the rugby pitch and never an interest in running or cardio for that matter. However he is a machine. I've seen him pull sub 7 minutes for 2k on a rower or set the treadmill to max speed and just hang on for 10 minutes (he is built like a Rugby Player). I honestly cannot imagine him doing a 35 10k but if he got the idea into his head, lost weight etc I wouldn't put it past him. He has an unreal pain threshold and ability to suffer and would work harder than most.

    Thing is I'm considering all relatively young athletic types. The next person in this age category I think of is a 6ft5 17stone mate who has never run to warm himself. He was not the sporty kid in school and it never even crossed his mind since. Maybe he has the potential for a 35 10k but its not something I can even imagine.

    I don't agree with the statement that anyone can run a 35 10k. Maybe easy for someone to say who has put in the work to get there and can look back to a time when it would have been an unrealistic goal. Or maybe easier to say if it were defined as a certain demographic range. There had to be some historical or current indications though to suggest it was possible with work. Or became evident as those indicators occurred from hard work.

    It starts with the will to do it. Id never knock anyone's goal but some folk will just never get there in a month of Sundays. To say talent beats hard work you really have to define that talent and that in itself is subjective.

    The lad who is naturally better than you at something can greatly motivate you to up your game though and beating them the odd time they have an off day is sweet.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,432 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    Some of you may have seen this.

    Interestingly, it does suggest 36 mins as a feasible 10k target for a low-talented runner who trains hard and well. (My own time, closer to 42, suggests a low-talented runner who works moderately hard/well. Or alternatively, a talented runner who does feck all.)

    Not much discussion of what ‘talent’ or ‘work’ really constitutes. But the conclusion suggests that we should concentrate on what we can do, rather than what we are given to work with:

    In the final analysis we don’t have much control over our innate talent but we do have control over how we use it via smart training and practice.

    The rules for sprinters, as always, are different! :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,834 ✭✭✭OOnegative


    Coming from a GAA background before running, I used to play with a lad who used to only turn up for games, always carrying a bit of weight etc and always got his game. Used to drive lads who trained 3 nights a week insane, but if I kicked the ball anywhere near him he won it and 9 times out of ten he scored or won a kickable free. Had a natural talent for the game and knew what to do.

    Same lad got call up to county team and trained like a demon with them, shedded all the weight & anytime the ball came near him then he fell over himself or the corner back won it. Got dropped soon enough off county panel and returned to a slightly overweight scoring machine for the club!!!


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,199 ✭✭✭Keeks


    To say talent beats hard work you really have to define that talent and that in itself is subjective.

    This was why I asked what defines talent. Everyone has a different idea of what talent is. And the word talent, gets interchanged with words like Skill, ability, gifted

    I don't know what "talent" is. But usually a "Natural talent" is found after they have put years of " work" in already. Take a young footballer. You often here about the next "natural talent", usually as he single handed scores 50 goals in an U10s. But this is usually the result of playing in the streets for years beforehand.

    In my opinion there is a point in life where "Talent" stops, and then what you see if the effect of work put in. This my opinion is usually when you stop naturally developing i,e around when you stop growing.

    Some people have to work harder then others, while some people work smarter.....


  • Registered Users Posts: 19,502 ✭✭✭✭Krusty_Clown


    A brief history of clown:
    2008: 3:25: "I'm only a humble beginner (don't expect I'll ever see a sub-3). sub 3-hours is a massive achievement" Running sub-3 takes a huge amount of talent.
    2009: "I fully plan to run a sub three hour marathon". Maybe it doesn't take as much talent as I thought. Run 3:00:50.
    2010: "Run 2:55 in Barcelona". Breaking 2:50 must require significant talent.
    2010 (later that year): "Run 2:48 in Berlin". Obviously didn't need much talent. Sub 2:45 is where the talent is at.
    2011: Washed up. Will never improve my marathon time. Switching to ultra running.
    2012: After a couple of failed attempts, run 2:43 in Dublin. Will never break 2:40 though!
    2013: Break 2:40 twice. Is this the end of the road? This must be the defining line where talent is needed.
    2014: 2:35. I can never do this again. It's just too much hard work.
    2015: 2:33. This is the last, last time. Never again put myself through that.
    2016: Injury strikes two weeks before Berlin. Three months off the road. Games up. Will never run another PB, not to mind train for a marathon.
    2017: 2:30:01. That was it. My one chance...
    2018: Injury strikes the week before Rotterdam. Run, but jog home. Three months off the road (so far). Games up. Will never run another PB, not to mind train for a marathon.
    2019:....
    Sorry if it comes across as a little self-promotional - that's certainly not the intent. I'm athletic's Joe Average. The point was more to show my shifting mindset with each training cycle (much of which is documented in these pages). In 2008, anyone who can run sub-3 clearly has talent (which I don't have). In 2017, that line lay somewhere around 2:25. Today, anyone who can avoid injury during high volume training is clearly more talented. It's difficult to debate a subject that is based entirely on one's perception, particularly when that perception changes based on our current situation. I anticipate that someone might suggest that it took talent to run an initial marathon in 3:25. It didn't - it took 5 x 20 mile runs!

    Does talent play a part? Certainly. But talent isn't necessarily a physical characteristic which much of this discussion is centered around. If I have talent, then it is made up of stubbornness and unsuppressable inner rage. :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    Talent isn't an all or nothing.

    I wouldn't consider myself particularly talented at all, but I do have a natural tendency towards sprinting than maybe some might. That surely has to fall under the broad term "talent".

    An example. Before I took up athletics properly, and was arsing about doing the odd fun run and marathon, I used to do the odd run with a friend of mine, who also arsed about with fun runs, but who didn't really train properly. Both of us would have been very equal in our approach.

    He was a fit guy, who went to the gym a lot and did a fair bit of weights. In any fun run we did he would always beat me easily, perhaps 40 seconds over 5K, 1:30 over 10K. We did a mile time trial together around that time too and he was about 10 seconds ahead of me.

    Then we decided to have a 100m race against each other just for the laugh, and I destroyed him. We also did 400m time trials, both of us having never done so before. I ran 67, he ran 71.

    67 seconds isn't exactly a strong talent level starting off, and I had to work very hard to bring my time down to what I eventually ran, but it is a higher talent level than my friend had, for that specific discipline.

    Talent isn't black or white. There are many shades of grey in between.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,292 ✭✭✭ariana`


    I have to admit i would have been 100% in the camp of talent over rules hard work but inspired by this thread and similar topic on other threads i have given it some thought in relation to myself.

    A month ago i'd have said about myself that "I work hard and am only very average because i don't have talent"...More recently I've realised that i don't really work hard at all - now I am not putting myself down or an looking for anyone to contradict me but this is how i see it. Do i train fairly consistently within the constraints of real life - "Yes i do"! But this is not hard work, this is easy, it is a joy to run (most of the time), it is a privilege and for the most part i don't get to run as much as I'd like to in fact.

    Hard work is all the other things i could/should do that would make me a better runner - the mobility work, the strengthening work (core/glutes), the good diet (losing a few lbs included), more/better sleep, mental toughness and i'm sure there's a heap of other items i'd include here if i was more knowledgeable than i am! So am i doing the hard work - the stuff that doesn't come easy to me - short answer "No"! Could i be a better runner if i worked harder - "Yes absolutely"! Is talent the limiting factor for me - "No, not at the level I'm at right now"!

    I still do think that talent (genetics primarily) plays a part in how much work an individual will need to do to get to a point. I think for two runners, let's call them A & B of the same or similar gender/age/physique and sporting background and following the same plan could potentially have different results but maybe not as wildly different as i would have thought prior to reading some of the great posts on here recently, including Krusty's which is very inspiring indeed!

    It's funny but it's a topic i've had brief discussions with two people outside of boards recently also. One a very good club runner who's daughter is now doing very well at juvenile athletics, i mentioned the word 'talent' in passing to him in relation to the daughter & he responded by pointing out that at her age it's more hard work than talent.

    And secondly I was having a conversation with an ex-county footballer and current manager and he was saying it's the kids who don't show talent at underage level that do well at senior level because they learn to work hard from an early age, they develop a work ethic that far outweighs talent in the long run.

    Interesting topic :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,849 ✭✭✭✭average_runner


    Loving this thread, some great posts. But we are focusing on talent v hard work, but the other big factor is, have you got the mental strength for it, ie push through the real hard times.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 8,208 ✭✭✭shotgunmcos


    Loving this thread, some great posts. But we are focusing on talent v hard work, but the other big factor is, have you got the mental strength for it, ie push through the real hard times.
    So change it to a nature vs nurture thread then? :D
    Agree very interesting thread.

    The mental thing is a whole other ball game but intrinsically related. Going back to my lil bro (and chivito's post). He is mid 30s and been a Personal Trainer most of his career. If you set him an endurance challenge or strength endurance where you hit and surpass your lactate threshold after a couple of minutes, you would assume he has an enormous lung capacity. Until you saw the scientific output that showed he hit his LT much earlier than you thought. As a kid he just didn't feel pain like other kids. I was the fast one, he was the tough one. I'd beat him easily over 100m, still would. But as the distance got longer he would close the gap. He can literally push himself until he passes out. I've come close but never that close. If he put in the same training I've put in over the last 10 years I have no doubt he would be a 35 minute or better 10k runner. And that would be more on sheer tenacity than latent talent.


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