By: Magda Lewy Boulet
Many runners graduating from college have enough ability to become great runners given the ingredients for success, but so many of our post college runners do not pursue post college running. Why is that? Is the real issue overcoming the fear of failure? Or is it the fear of the unknown? Many ask themselves, "What if I train full time and do not run any faster?"
More years ago than I care to mention, I asked myself the same questions. And like all those entering the real world, I decided it was worthwhile to discover the answer. I worked two jobs, went back to grad school, and eventually found that my competitive strength was in the marathon.
Success didn't come immediately, though. My coach, Jack Daniels, talks about the four ingredients of Success: 1) Inherent ability, 2) Motivation, 3) Opportunity, 4) Direction.
Ability is not something any of us can do anything about – that is up to your parents. Motivation is not something anyone else can do anything about – that's up to you. Putting yourself in position to maximize the other two factors can be the difference between success and failure.
Opportunity is more than just getting into races. It's about staying healthy and training consistently. It's also about where you live, having others to train with, and good facilities and equipment. Putting yourself in a place where you enjoy waking up everyday goes a long way toward keeping you motivated as well.
Direction is something you need to seek out. I've not yet met a runner who didn't think that they knew what was best for their training. But very few of those people make Olympic teams, or even reach their full potential. Of course no one knows your body like you do, but there is always someone who knows more about running. Find someone you trust and who you communicate well with, and that can go a long way. For me, Jack Daniels is the greatest coach in the world because he always works with the tools I have available and together we make the most out of each situation.
I'm lucky to have a team of people and sponsors like Saucony, GU, Nathan, and Oakley who support me, but it took time and patience to build these relationships. Had I not qualified for the Olympic team in 2008, things might be much different for me. But even if I hadn't qualified, I still would have no regrets. The experiences I've had and the people I've met along the way have been priceless.
My advice to anyone considering extending their competitive career after college is, without hesitation, go for it. Find a club team and a coach to train with. Seek out equipment sponsors, talk to local shoe reps or running specialty stores. Work a flexible part-time job. Live at home. Do odd jobs. Find a way to make it work.
The question I ask myself now is, "What if I had not decided to keep training after college?"