Elite Gene?

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  SwampTiger 13 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #2464

    SwampTiger
    Member

    In another thread Ryan wrote..

    This is a point I bring up many times when people seem to think there is an “elite gene”. They got where they are by hard work.

    Ryan…you’re going to have to explain that one to me. Are you saying there isn’t an “elite gene”? I’m sure I’m missing your point, but it almost sounds like you are saying anyone can be elite through hard work.

  • #18503

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Yes, there is something special to elite runners. Not just anyone can be taken from an early age and developed into a 2:10 marathoner or a 27:30 10k runner. However, the “elite gene” comment was in reference to people who seem to think that the elites are who they are only because of some magical gene. Most people never will know if they could have been elite because they have never even come close to doing the work required. Most runners these day simply did not get started in running early enough in their lives to even have an idea.

    I have seen many times people think that elites are somehow superhuman individuals who defy the physiological principles that “us mere mortals” live by. You know what? That’s not true. They are human beings just like the rest of us. They have something special that gives them an extra edge but they also work their butts off for many years in order to overcome physiological barriers.

    Even worse, I have many times been confronted by individuals who believe that, if you don’t run a 2:10 marathon your first time out, you might as well not try to find your personal limit because they think you don’t have a chance of becoming elite and, apparently, if you’re not going to be elite, you’re wasting your time by pushing to your limits. First off, guys who didn’t even break 2:20 or 2:30 their first time out have had very impressive careers. Second, if you want to test your limits and be the very best you can be, just because you’re not elite, what’s wrong with that?

  • #18504

    GTF
    Member

    Of course not anyone can be elite through hard work, but then there are many who certainly could achieve elite level performances yet do not. It is not a certain gene, either, but rather a combination of inherited traits. It is apparently several different possible combinations of those traits, too, relating to body type, muscle type makeup, VO2max, etc. There is no singular, patented combination that will guarantee success, either. Put a proven combination in the wrong environment and high-level performance is all but doomed. On the same token, putting a relatively poor combination of genetic traits in the right environment has a low likelihood of high-level distance running performance, though I have noted sub-2:30 marathon performances from stout, rather muscular men which opens the possibility to many who have been conditioned to believe that it would be near-impossible for them to achieve relatively similar types of performances.

  • #18505

    SwampTiger
    Member

    Ryan…Thanks for the explanation. That makes sense.

    There are two things that irk me (well actually there are a bunch more, but these two are related to this discussion 😀 ). One is the people who have great talent, but do nothing with it. I grew up playing all the sports I could and loved to play, but I was no good at any of them. It drove me crazy to see the kids who were great athletes, but didn’t care about sports.

    The other thing that really gets me, is the fast people who think they are faster than others, just because they train harder or smarter. They give no credence to the role gentics plays in performance. (Just to be clear, I don’t think this is true of anybody on this forum.)

  • #18506

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    SwampTiger wrote:
    There are two things that irk me (well actually there are a bunch more, but these two are related to this discussion 😀 ). One is the people who have great talent, but do nothing with it. I grew up playing all the sports I could and loved to play, but I was no good at any of them. It drove me crazy to see the kids who were great athletes, but didn’t care about sports.

    I was the same way and that irks me a bit, too. However, if you don’t love it, why do it? I might be an extremely talented accordion player if I tried it but playing the accordion is something I wouldn’t love to do so why should I do it? Peter and I were talking a bit about this topic on our cooldown Saturday. I would bet there are 1000 guys in this country right now who, if they had been taken from an early age and mentored by a knowledgable coach who had their long term interests at the forefront of the coach’s mind and if they really loved running and wanted to do the work required to be their best, could or could have run a 2:10 marathon. However, there are only a handful who had the guidance and work ethic to follow through and actually run a 2:10. Most never even tried running. Many tried running but either had bad guidance, tried it too late in life to reach that kind of performance level, or simply did not care for running in order to make the commitment required to reach that level. Those traits of a top runner, which are much easier to define than this fuzzy “talent” term which can mean so many different things, are just as important.

    SwampTiger wrote:
    The other thing that really gets me, is the fast people who think they are faster than others, just because they train harder or smarter. They give no credence to the role gentics plays in performance. (Just to be clear, I don’t think this is true of anybody on this forum.)

    Well, I don’t think there are too many people like this. I think most people understand that there are some inherent traits that go into making them what they are. However, it is true that those who achieve higher levels of performance tend to also be those who train the hardest. I know volume isn’t everything but it’s the easiest to quantify, so I’ll use volume as an example here but the same could be said of types of workouts and other training variables that are harder to quantify. How many 3:30+ marathoners have ever done a single 100 mile week at any point in their lives? How many 2:30- marathoners have not done multiple 100+ mile weeks at some point in their lives?

  • #18507

    r-at-work
    Member

    I would LOVE to take that as a challenge… I’m a 4:14 marathon runner and I have never run more than, well, (I’m embarrassed to say) 53…

    so I’ve talked this over with my coaches and they want to see me stay uninjured and therefore want me to build up more gradually then they would expect of their 20-30 year old clients… I’m not sure that as slow as my long run/recovery pace is that there are going to be enough hours in my week to get to 100… but as the days get longer I’m going to try…

    and if their EVER was anyone with not an elite running gene in her body, it’s me… luckily I have made up for it with a sharp mind and the genetics to live a long life… up till now I always thought that running was a gift and I also was appalled when those with ‘the gift’ did nothing with it… actually any gift that is wasted is sad… but I will promise to start arguing more for the training side of the equation if I can show the kind of improvement I want to see…

    steady on…

    -Rita

  • #18508

    Zeke
    Member
    r-at-work wrote:
    I’m not sure that as slow as my long run/recovery pace is that there are going to be enough hours in my week to get to 100… but as the days get longer I’m going to try…

    I know the allure of the “magical 100” is out there. I think about it myself too. However, keep in mind that’s it’s just a number.

    Rita, if I gave you the choice of 1) averaging 50 mpw for the year or 2) hitting a month of 100 mpw, which would you take?

    Everytime I read about running 100 mpw, I just remind myself that I’m already running more than in the past, I’m consistent, I feel good and I’m racing well. I’ll continue with this approach and bump my mileage during my next build-up. Maybe I’ll eventually get to 100, maybe not. I know I’m not going to get there just to say “I did it.”

  • #18509

    r-at-work
    Member

    without a doubt if I had a choice I would say “average of 50 mpw”… in order to get there I’m sure I’d need some seroius weeks ABOVE 50… and in order to do that mythical 100 I think I would have to have some serious weeks above 50 as well… that is to say I’m not going to just take a week off of work and run 100 miles in between naps and snacks, thought that has an appeal as well 😉 …

    and maybe I won’t get there… but this is probably the first time I’ve even considered the possibility… the more I read and the more I run, the more I WANT… this morning at track the coach was talking to some new people, telling them to fill out the on-line questionaire for the group, especially “goals”… one of the guys said “prosperous”, I said ‘faster’… I know I’ll never be FAST, but so far ‘faster’ has been doable…

    the good news is that my husband has said he’d do what he could to help out with this ‘quest’ (though I haven’t said “100” out loud to him), he doesn’t want me to get hurt and he’s willing to play chauffeur and cook if he needs to be, even told me the dog would be happy to jog at 5am and probably at 9pm if I rattled the leash…we’ll see..

    -Rita

  • #18510

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    r-at-work wrote:
    so I’ve talked this over with my coaches and they want to see me stay uninjured and therefore want me to build up more gradually then they would expect of their 20-30 year old clients…

    Remember one of the things I stated in that same post you’re replying to, taken from an early age and mentored by a knowledgable coach. Not many runners this day fit that simple mold, which is at least as important to becoming elite as anything else.

    r-at-work wrote:
    I’m not sure that as slow as my long run/recovery pace is that there are going to be enough hours in my week to get to 100… but as the days get longer I’m going to try…

    I would suggest focusing on consistency. Remember, I was just offering an example and, as I pointed out, used something that is easy to quantify. Differences between difficulty level of workouts and consistency, as well as other factors, would be similar but not as easy to quantify. Simply running a 100 mile week isn’t going to change you even as much as getting comfortable with consistently doing a bit more than your are currently comfortable with. My point was that the training of your typical sub-2:30/sub-3:00/sub-2:43:28/whatever (the point is “relatively fast”) runner is different than the training of your typical 4:00+/4:30+/4:27:43+/whatever (the point is “relatively slower”) runner. This is not to mean that there are not other differences but one of the significant factors in race times is training. Just as another significant factor is the age at which one starts running and another significant factor is the knowledge of those who are helping one form a training plan.

    r-at-work wrote:
    and if their EVER was anyone with not an elite running gene in her body, it’s me…

    People have said the same of me. To counter that, I had the good fortune of getting started early and of having some of the best guidance one could hope for. While factors like these won’t produce a 2:10 runner without certain intrinsic qualities, I am living proof that the right combination of these factors can produce a locally or regionally competitive runner

    r-at-work wrote:
    up till now I always thought that running was a gift and I also was appalled when those with ‘the gift’ did nothing with it… actually any gift that is wasted is sad… but I will promise to start arguing more for the training side of the equation if I can show the kind of improvement I want to see…

    Running is a gift but as much as the ability to run fast off little training is a gift, loving running enough to put in the grueling training required to get the most out of yourself is also a gift. You need both to be elite. To be relatively fast, either one will do but those most likely to stay at that level are the ones who do the training. The others will get bored with running and move on.

    This whole discussion reminds me of two things. First, the fact that I was the slowest guy around until I started doing more in training than my teammates. That is a constant reminder of the amount of “talent” I have whenever this topic comes up. Second, my first day of practice for cross-country my freshman year of college. After practice, the freshmen all went to the cafeteria for dinner. While there, two of the guys were talking about how great they were and they came to the conclusion that, if you can’t run a 5:00 mile off of no training, you don’t have what it takes to run in college. As someone who had to work his butt off to run a 5:00 mile, I took this as a real slap in the face but I just kept quiet. As it turned out, neither one of those guys made it to the outdoor track season. According to them, I was far from having what it takes to run in college. However, in the end, neither one of them made it a single year but I earned 5 varsity letters, 3 for cross-country and 2 for track.

  • #18511

    r-at-work
    Member

    IMPROVEMENT… that’s the idea that I’m interested in… as for “right out of the box” talent, lots of young people just get out and run, shorter races than marathons usually… but I keep thinking that I have something more… “love of running”… yep… nothing like it… but fitting it around my job and two kids is challenging… but I’ve told people that the marathon is “easy” compared to the training, the consistency thing again… being able to say “I ran 100 miles this week” is cool, it would be BETTER to be able to post miles per month that aren’t embarassing… of course if I pulled out my log from two years ago I’m probably ahead of what I did that year, scary…

    great discussion…

    -Rita

  • #18512

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    r-at-work wrote:
    IMPROVEMENT… that’s the idea that I’m interested in…

    That’s the idea we all should be interested in. After all, if you’re not getting faster, you’re getting slower.

    r-at-work wrote:
    but fitting it around my job and two kids is challenging…

    Fitting something that takes so much time is challenging for everyone. I remember talking with Double, a guy with 2 great kids and a job that has him on the road a lot, about this. He said he was surprised by the amount of flack some people give me about having so much free time because I don’t have a family. His point was that I still had a job, I still had a house to take care of with nobody to share the chores with, and everyone needs some extra time. For a single person, it might be personal time. For a parent, it’s family time. For me, I have maintenance of this site to fit into the schedule. I can tell you that it is not easy to fit running in all the time and I know that, for me personally, it’s not going to get easier. It involves early mornings, creative scheduling, and planning ahead. This is where priorities come in. If you love it, if you really want to be your best at it and are willing to work for it, you prioritize it and get up at 4:00-5:00 in the morning, even when you know you’re going to be going non-stop for 15 hours if you do so.

    r-at-work wrote:
    but I’ve told people that the marathon is “easy” compared to the training, the consistency thing again…

    This, to me, is a sign that you’re doing something right in your training. If the marathon is harder than the training, you’re slacking in training.

    r-at-work wrote:
    being able to say “I ran 100 miles this week” is cool, it would be BETTER to be able to post miles per month that aren’t embarassing… of course if I pulled out my log from two years ago I’m probably ahead of what I did that year, scary…

    There’s that improvement thing again. If you’re progressing with your training, what’s embarrassing about that? Don’t compare yourself to others, there will always be someone out there who will humble you no matter who you are. As for saying “I ran 100 miles this week” I can say that (not yet this week but many times over in previous weeks) and I can honestly say it’s kind of cool but not nearly as cool as saying “I ran X:XX in Y distance” (feel free to fill in your own numbers). What will lead to X:XX in Y distance is consistent training. Weekly mileage tells you more than daily mileage but monthly mileage tells you more about consistency and yearly mileage tells you even more. I once ran 161 miles in a week but didn’t go over 500 miles that month. As far as I’m concerned, that month as a whole was less productive than this April, even though my highest week in April was over 10% less than that high water mark.

    Of course, this once again is looking at one variable. Along with getting in the mileage, you need the workouts, the long runs, and all the other variables. While mileage is the easiest to quantify and it is an important factor, it’s only one part of an effective training plan.

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