The 10,000hr rule and why talent and genes matter

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Andrew A. 8 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #12108

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    A great blog post on Science of Running

    I especially like this:

    So what’s the point of all of this? We like to have things work in black  and white or a simple yes or no answer. It doesn’t. Hard work plays a  role, genetics plays a role, and environment plays a role. Once again,  there is no magic bullet to tell us what our potential is. Don’t fall  into the trap of a simple yes or no answer.  Remember that these things  work in cycles, 10 yearsw ago genetics was king, now it's all about hard  work. It is not as simple as saying hard work will rule the day or that  genetics determines everything.

  • #30423

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Right, plus hard work is not even necessarily part of the answer.  There are lots of options in training that can be done hard and are extremely tiring.  It is about working smart and hard, to do what will get one best prepared to race. 

  • #30424

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    The founder of the company I work for always said “work smarter, not harder” (he also always said “work hard, play hard”). Essentially, the idea being that you do work hard but you also work smart so your efforts are best directed toward the most efficient and effective process. This holds true for anything. Of course it takes hard work to succeed at the highest level but that hard work has to be directed toward the best methods. Anyone can work hard. Those who will get the best results are those who work both smart and hard. Of course, those who achieve at the highest level combine talent with that smart and hard work.

  • #30425

    r-at-work
    Member

    …Those who will get the best results are those who work both smart and hard. Of course, those who achieve at the highest level combine talent with that smart and hard work.

    and you need a dash of luck too…

  • #30426

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Right, I know a couple runners who – for whatever reason – seemingly like to operate with the 'I have no talent' (despite recording performances that put them well above their peers) mindset.  I get it, it conveys the attitude of 'I want to do more with less than others do.'  However, they also seemingly believe that if they can just outwork everyone else – or just enough of everyone else – then they will achieve a higher degree of their potential.  While that may be correct, outworking others is key, it is only a starting point.  When I can look at the training being done and spot low-hanging fruit being overlooked that would have significant impact on performance improvement, it seems that there is a smarter approach to developing the systems to be utilized in race performance. 

  • #30427

    Andrew A.
    Member

    …Those who will get the best results are those who work both smart and hard. Of course, those who achieve at the highest level combine talent with that smart and hard work.

    and you need a dash of luck too…

    You make your own luck: luck is where opportunity meets preparation.  8)

  • #30428

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    …Those who will get the best results are those who work both smart and hard. Of course, those who achieve at the highest level combine talent with that smart and hard work.

    and you need a dash of luck too…

    You make your own luck: luck is where opportunity meets preparation.  8)

    I tend to agree with that. I think the only luck is in what talent you end up with.

  • #30429

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Right, I know a couple runners who – for whatever reason – seemingly like to operate with the 'I have no talent' (despite recording performances that put them well above their peers) mindset.  I get it, it conveys the attitude of 'I want to do more with less than others do.'  However, they also seemingly believe that if they can just outwork everyone else – or just enough of everyone else – then they will achieve a higher degree of their potential.  While that may be correct, outworking others is key, it is only a starting point.  When I can look at the training being done and spot low-hanging fruit being overlooked that would have significant impact on performance improvement, it seems that there is a smarter approach to developing the systems to be utilized in race performance. 

    Talent is an interesting thing. I used to equate the word “talent” with the ability to run fast with little or no training. By that definition, I'm the least talented person I know as those who know me from my early running years could attest. However, in the past few years as I've spent more time reflecting on my running past, I've begun changing my opinion on that. How many people could train the way I have for as long as I have with my injury free history? Is that a talent? Sure, some has to do with my being taught good injury prevention but some of it has to do with a natural ability to absorb and benefit from training loads that would wipe others out. Likewise with the mental/psychological ability to keep one's focus on the big goals and overcome obstacles.

    There are many kinds of talent and many different levels of each of those kinds. All of us have some level of each kind. Some of us have more of one or another. Any way you cut it, though, what you become in running has to do with how you work with the talents you have and how you work to overcome the talents you don't have. You can't control your talents but you can control how you work to maximize your positives and minimize your negatives.

  • #30430

    Andrew A.
    Member

    I recall now that we have been over this before.  8)

  • #30431

    DoppleBock
    Member

    10,000 hours x 8 miles and hour = 80,000 miles … with highs and lows of training cyles – say 6,000 miles per year = 13-14 years to master the sport.  If 5,000 miles per year = 15 years.  Most kids start out much lower , so say if you started @ 10 years old, so you have only averaged 3,000 miles per year = 26 years.

    10,000 hours for elites would = 90,000-100,000 miles

    It just seems a bit high as your age increases, you lose a bit of performance and I think most elite runners are peaking well before 10,000 hours.  Although I suppose if you add in weight lifting and drills etc it is a little more reasonable, but still a bit high I think.

  • #30432

    Andrew A.
    Member

    I recall putting some similar math to it back when I saw someone on another forum crowing about getting to 60,000 miles in 27 years.  That averages to 2222 miles/year and (allowing a couple of weeks off each year) 44 miles/week and (allowing one day off each week) 7.4 miles/day.  Also generously allowing an average pace of 10 min/mile, comes out to 10,000 hours.  Yes, 27 years to get to 10,000 hours.  In all that time, a marathon best of 3:20+ (for a sub-masters male) resulted — no surprise.  This points to the fact that, at least for physical pursuits (maybe less so for disciplines such as writing, music, etc.), the concentration of those hours may also play a significant role.  I could see someone with decent talent for distance running averaging something like 2500 miles/year for their first 4-6 years – through high school and perhaps the first couple years of college – yet after that it should start ramping-up significantly to 4000+ miles/year.  A runner such as that would get to 60,000 miles in 10+ fewer years than the example at the start of this post.  A PR about 40-60 minutes faster would come as no surprise, either.  A seven min/mile average over a career like that would bring 10,000 hours in 19-22 years, so if starting at age 14 then a peak at age 33-36.  An eight min/mile average over a career like that would bring 10,000 hours in 15-17 years, so if starting at age 14 then a peak at age 29-31.  Plus, as you noted, time spent doing form work, core work, etc. could add at least two hours/week – or 100 hours/year – to that (on the same token, spending hours each week jabbering on the computer about topics ancillary to running would likely impart a negligible effect  😉 ).  Adding that in would bring those ranges down to 16-19 years (ages 30-33) for the seven min/mile average and down to 14-17 years (ages 28-31) for the eight min/mile average.  So one can see why Africans can dominate as Junior and Senior athletes at young ages if they start at age six or so – 4-8 years before most of the best U.S. runners – even with a more gradual progression.

  • #30433

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Well, first, I would note that he was saying 10,000 hours is probably not quite right for runners. It's the concept that he was after, the idea that you can perfect anything with a lot of practice. In fact, he was disputing that idea anyway, saying you can't just perfect something you don't have some talent for.

    Regardless, 10,000 hours seems a little high but not out of the ballpark for when a runner who threw everything into their running might reach a peak as Andrew broke it down. Personally, after 20 years, I figured I'm somewhere over 70,000 miles lifetime, maybe even over 80,000 (I don't track every mile closely enough to know precisely where I'd fall but 3500 miles per year seems like a lowball figure and 4000 miles a year for my whole running life seems high but maybe not a completely unreasonable estimate). I'd estimate 10,000 hours to be around 80,000-85,000 miles so I think I'm still a bit short of 10,000 hours. In terms of times, I'm already on the way down. In terms of knowing about running, I'm still learning and I'm fully expecting that I'll continue learning for decades to come.

  • #30434

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Well, first, I would note that he was saying 10,000 hours is probably not quite right for runners. It's the concept that he was after, the idea that you can perfect anything with a lot of practice. In fact, he was disputing that idea anyway, saying you can't just perfect something you don't have some talent for.

    Indeed, likely so.

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