Lesson 1: Consistency = Endurance = Success

By Patrick Xu

Summer training always exposes a more personal side of running for me. In season, competition is the focus. The next race is always on the horizon, the center of attention until it comes, goes, and is replaced by the race after that. In June and July, the Fall seems so far away and running is just about running. I wanted to write this series to give myself a chance to really solidify my understanding of the sport. Hopefully by the end of this summer I’ll have a better grasp on the lessons running has taught me and in the process, help you see what makes this sport so special.

Day to day, distance running can feel like a thankless sport.  There are very few defined milestones a runner can look to as validation for their efforts. Whereas athletes in other sports can measure their progression by the development of their skill tree or a statistic they have reached, running really boils down to a singular action repeated over and over, measured only by time and distance. The impact of work put in one day on fitness or strength, mental or physical, can’t be quantified or separated from work put in on other days. It will only be noticed a week, a month, or a year later in faster times or in a sense of ease. Even the smallest external markers of progress are only accessible after a session. How many miles, what time, what pace; all measures that come in the form of results. This is what makes running such a mentally-centered sport. Beyond the physical, a runner has to develop psychological endurance to push through the process of getting to those results.

For me, this requirement is always more pronounced during the summer. The months between the end of track season and the beginning of cross country season are the longest stretch of the year where I do not have regularly scheduled meets or workouts. Every day and every week consists of stepping outside and putting foot to pavement again and again, building mileage onto tired legs trying to ensure that they come out stronger for the season ahead.

It’s in the summer that I have really learned the importance of consistency, for running and beyond. Consistency is the best way to make something hard easier. Taking that challenge and making it routine means that every instance of it is less difficult to manage. Over time, that consistency breeds mental endurance, allowing for the development of tolerance to the difficulty and trust in the process. Having that mentality can change everything. A single step, normally completely insignificant, is instead a brick laid towards the next milestone.

I’ve often been told that I shouldn’t treat running as anything more than it is. I’m not an elite athlete with prospects of becoming a professional or making an Olympic team, just a Division III guy running when I’m not in the classroom. I should put my focus elsewhere and dedicate more time to things that will help me academically or progress my career. On some level they’re right (something I’ll discuss in another post). My future most likely won’t involve me being a competitive athlete, but the ability to persevere is something that can be applied to every facet of life, from jobs to relationships to unfortunate circumstances. In any situation I encounter, I can always look back at those long days during the summer when I put my head down and trusted that one more step will help me get to where I needed to go. When I look back up, I’ll hopefully see the road that I built behind me. 

Patrick Xu is an intern for VDOT O2. He currently competes for the NYU Cross Country and Track & Field teams and is majoring in Media, Culture, and Communications.