As a teacher and coach for the past 25 years, I have spent a fair amount of time working with students and athletes on balancing their potential. As we ultrarunners know quite well, potential can be a tricky thing. Success at one distance or in one type of terrain does not always transfer across disciplines. Furthermore, attempting to evaluate potential based on typical objective factors that may work in other endurance endeavors does not really work as well for ultrarunners. Therefore, in that context, balancing potential becomes both a science and an art and requires a simultaneous focus on past, present, and future.
I have become acutely aware of this balance for my own potential as I return from a long period of injury and major surgery. Certainly, I have a 20-year running career to look back on in an attempt to assess my future but in many ways, after so much time off, I am actually starting over. With that re-start comes both the excitement and freshness of doing something new and the fear and anxiety of possibly dashed expectations. That’s where the delicate balance comes into play.
When I look back over the years at some of my most successful students and athletes they were often not the ones with the most talent nor were they necessarily the ones with the best work ethic; rather, they were most often the ones who seemed to be keenly aware of their potential and never lost sight of where it might take them. Even now, as I am working with a handful of runners preparing for big summer 100 milers, I see the art and the science of potential assessment emerging anew.
For me, running has always been a rather timeless endeavor. Regardless of fitness, conditions, age, and attitude, simply putting one foot in front of the other has always given me a welcome respite from the rest of life. In this act, I can take stock of my present while longing for the past and dreaming of the future. Running has, since I first started, been as much about who I am as it is what I do. And when it comes to seeking answers about what’s ahead, it has never disappointed.
Certainly, reflecting on the past can make us better, stronger runners and staying centered in the present can undoubtedly provide occasional transcendent experiences, but something about the hope and promise of a future we have yet to imagine is perhaps running’s greatest gift. On those golden days when all goes well, running makes me into the best version of myself I know and fills me with joy for a future in which I can have faith. My dreams simply become bigger on those days. And it is those dreams, ultimately, that provide the most enduring value of balancing potential.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Green Flash Brewing Company in San Diego, California. Known for their award winning IPAs, Green Flash’s 30th Street Pale Ale in an excellent American Pale Ale with toned-down hops and a rich, almost fruity flavor. Sessionable at 6% ABV, it is a great beer for the arrival of spring!
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- Do you prefer to honestly evaluate and strive toward your potential or shoot for the moon?
- Do you aim to maximize your potential for particular events/goals or more generally?