Stupid question maybe - just wondering.....

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01/03/2012 at 23:38

Worth a read.

Written by someone who decided to put in the time and became a sporting elite, and then put in the time and wrote about how he and others did it.

Unlike alot of those who bandy about words like "talent" "genetics"  "Kenyan this and Kenyan that" he has done the research and worked out the facts from fantasy.

Elites have one thing in common which is a phenomanal work ethic. When your not running, practicing, training, they are. When you fall and give up, they fall and fall and fall again, Then succeed.

A Kenyan elite runner growing up in the country has more incommon with Seb Coe than he does with his Kenyan relative in Nairobi who cant be arsed to even walk to the shops and drives everywhere.

That runner will also have put in the hours running to school everyday which his younger brother never had to because by then a school had been built nearby.

So guess which one is more likely to find out by his own actions he liked running, when not only can he run to school but he gets medals and praise when he wins races for his school?

...and dont even ask about how the changes in training techniques in America and Europe that runners in Ethiopia and Kenya didn't take on meant that those East African runners florished while runners here and in the US didn't. Bascially if you want to run fast over a long distance you have to run fast over a long distance. Not run long and slow.Its no accident that the decline in American long distance came around during the 70's when the jogging boom came which was all about running long and slow. Some like Salazar rejected this credo but it still infected Western running

Now the advantage the East Africans have is enormous.


They think they have one

You dont need a genetic advantage if you think you can win to the extent you cannot even imagine defeat.

Ask Daley





I recall back in the days of Michael Jordan reading  about how top white basket ball players would just laugh at the idea that they couldn't jump (remember that movie with Harrelson and Snipes?) and their black team mates would find it equally amusing because they all knew that that they were there through the same process. They saw a game that they liked the look of, practiced like they were possessed till they got good and stronger until they all found themselves playing ball. They had more incommon with each other than with they public that adored them and any genetic advantages would be simply freakish if they had not developed the skills to not look like a giraffe in shorts.

02/03/2012 at 00:01
If genetics don't play much of a part why don't we see many prop forwards who are slim built and 5'8"? In fact go a step further - why no women who could play rugby for England ? These things are genetically determined so clearly it's not all down to training.

I'm not being facetious - why should the only relevant genetic differences be ones that are immediately obvious to the eye. The stuff Moraghan links is useful in so far as it provides some scientific backing to what should be obvious anyway.
02/03/2012 at 08:10

It has suddenly becomes fashionable to believe anyone can achieve X if they do Y in sport.  It's a comfortable notion which appeals to some weak-minded notion of fairness and to the fantasy that we're all created equal. Life's not like that and nearly everyone has limits that prevents them from achieving what they might like to matter how much dedication or how smart the training.

It's like the Emperor's new clothes - all it will take is a 6 year old to stand up and point out that the fat, uncoordinated kid can never be a top tennis player, or the 6ft 10in man will never be an elite marathoner. 

Then, after the current wave of people trying to sell books is cast ashore, we'll return to the compromise that everyone has always known and understood.  That success is down to a combination of natural capability, how 'inclined' that capability is to improve through practice / training and to how thoroughly you are willing to make that natural capability sweat - only one of which is within our control. 

So forgive me if I am skeptical whilst the current fad of sensationalist authorship does the rounds.  Two years ago it was barefoot running and before that the Atkins diet. I still don't see any elites without shoes and the world is still getting fatter.

To answer the OP's question more directly - at the very least sub 3 is within your medium term range I would think.

Edited: 02/03/2012 at 08:11
02/03/2012 at 08:13
From what I've read, running is mainly genetics. How else do you account for the number of twins who; especially in schools, out perform the rest.
02/03/2012 at 08:52
RicF wrote (see)
From what I've read, running is mainly genetics. How else do you account for the number of twins who; especially in schools, out perform the rest.

Is this true?  I have friends who are twins and they run and tri.  They are both fiercely competitive, one worse than the other, and like to do well but they are average at best.   Thinking of all the other twins I know, or have known, I can't think of any who have excelled more than a non-twin.

Saying that, my son has twin brother and sister at his school and both are top class runners.  They are only 11 but wipe the board especially on xcountry. 

02/03/2012 at 08:53

From what I've seen, running is mainly getting off your arse.  My daughter can beat the male twins in her class over any distance.

But I think you've phrased your point incorrectly, Ric, and you meant to say that if one twin is 'talented' the other is too.

02/03/2012 at 09:13
It's likely that twins will have the same upbringing and do the same training!
02/03/2012 at 09:41
Well I have twins - one is very sporty, won the city schools xc race, played football for the FA academy, good at netball, cycling etc - the other does race bikes but often comes last and while he has good endurance as yet just doesn't have the power his twin sister has. They aren't identical (obviously) but they have had a very very similar upbringing. The genetic differences are obvious to anyone who, as Moraghan says, isn't trying to sell a book.
02/03/2012 at 09:43
I think Moraghan should write a book.  It'd be like Noakes but with sardonic humour.
02/03/2012 at 11:24

Don't understand your point at all RicF - I assume you're saying there may (or may not) be some evidence that if one identical twin performs well at a given sport the other one is more likely too as well. Don't know if there's any convincing evidence (beyond the anecdotal) for that in any case

Clearly you'd need to look at twins who were separated early on and had different upbringings. There's loads of studies that have done this for all sorts of outcomes and I suspect their conclusions often contradict each other

cougie    pirate
02/03/2012 at 12:21
If you read Bounce - he makes some very convincing cases.
At one point half of the Top 10 for Table Tennis in the UK were from his club. Was this genetics ?

He argues that it was because :

A teacher at the local school was the UK coach and very keen to introduce kids into it
The local table tennis club was open 24/7 so had unlimited practice time
The competition in the area was stiff so you practiced more.
Not many people play so its easier to be well ranked.

(I think the story was something like that - my numbers may be a bit off - but that's the gist)

As to the twins - maybe its the competition between them and you have a ready made pal to play with who is always round your house ?

The story of the chess playing sisters is a good one too.
02/03/2012 at 19:04
I should have said twins or brothers and sisters. I said twins not because it was being twins that made them good but because in race results they stood out. Some twins are good runners some are not. Its about the genetics inherited from the parents. However in the case of good middle/long distance runners the ability to process the oxygen is all down to mum. Sorry guys but if junior is a great runner then you might have influenced their body shape but mum provided the engine and transmission. As for Matt Syed views on nurture then I must be a classic case. I've been a distance runner for more than two decades whereas my siblings are both borderline obese and consider a walk to the shops as a good work out. In fact, neither of them has ever shown the slightest athletic ability.
cougie    pirate
02/03/2012 at 21:35
These twins didn't get the memo clearly.
03/03/2012 at 01:35

The funny thing with this nature/nurture debate is how often those who emphasise one particular side like to claim those who emphasise the other are one dimensional and completely neglect that both might be relevant....the reality is that its very rare anybody believes its entirely nature or entirely nurture.

Moraghan wrote (see)

It has suddenly becomes fashionable to believe anyone can achieve X if they do Y in sport.  It's a comfortable notion which appeals to some weak-minded notion of fairness and to the fantasy that we're all created equal. Life's not like that and nearly everyone has limits that prevents them from achieving what they might like to matter how much dedication or how smart the training.

Then, after the current wave of people trying to sell books is cast ashore, we'll return to the compromise that everyone has always known and understood. 

Aside from the above sounding like a mein kampf chapter on sport, i've never witnessed anybody making these above "weak minded" points in such simple terms. Clearly a fundamental component of achieving a high level at anything is a belief it can be achieved, when most human societies throughout history have had quite rigid hierarchies and the ideology that greatness is born has been dominant.....having a train of thought that challenges this and emphasises the possibilities of hard work will naturally encourage achievement much more than this dismissive notion that if you dont first excel at something you're probably not one of the gifted ones. To whatever extent talent varies, giving people the belief to push hard and the opportunity to test themselves at something they enjoy can only result in the overall level of a sport being raised and less talent being wasted for environmental constraints. Maybe not every kid can be an olympic sprinter, but the process of investing and persevering with something you enjoy is a massive life lesson in itself. The first link which criticises Gladwell's book neglects to mention Gladwell does talk about variations in how some individuals respond to specific hours...Gladwell doesnt argue natural talent doesnt have any impact, rather he is challenging the misconception that success is primarily down to inherent greatness and he offers many examples which illustrate how precise environmental factors or coincidences lead to great achievement in many areas.

03/03/2012 at 01:35

How people respond to success is always instructive, there will always be those who treat their success as proof of inherent superior talent and a reflection of their greater capacity for hard work, such people tend to view those that dont match up to their self constructed image as intrinsically inferior and weak minded. Then there are those who are happy to recognise the environmental and cultural contexts to their success, who appreciate that the meaning they've found in working hard isnt necessarily accessible to those that didnt have their own influences. Ultimately this is a political debate as much as its a scientific debate...gladwell and syed's books arent infallible in their methodology or references, but neither are any studies ive seen emphasising genetics. Although we can all probably agree its a combination, i think the reasons people choose to believe one side over the other is quite interesting. With respect to running in this country, so few people get close to the training that would enable them to even get close to realising their potential that clearly training structure/investment is going to be the dominant factor at our amateur level. For what its worth i agree most senior males are capable of sub 2.45 at marathon, probably alot quicker in fact.

03/03/2012 at 09:31
I'm touching on this subject on SG's thread.
I had associations once with some incredibly talented runners, who essentially succeeded in spite of their methods rather than because. But here's the problem that appeared. Their speed and success made them almost totally resistant to any advice that might make them better than they already were. They and their supporters had developed the idea that the results attained were down to being better informed and intelligent than everyone else they beat in a race, when the truth was that what they did was standard basic stuff combined with being endowed with fantastic genetics. So any doubt concerning their training was met with their 'get out of jail free card' 'well I'm faster than you, so what do you know?
03/03/2012 at 09:32
edit - x -post meant as a reply to Chingo

Hmmm, I think you are attacking a bit of a straw man there, I don't see that Moraghan's position on this is any different to the one you side with - that it's a mixture of the two sides.

You imply that there is value in believing anyone can achieve greatness (in this case in athletics) through their own efforts. I agree it's better that people believe in the possible rather than feel they are constrained by inferior talent from the outset. The stuff in Syed, or at least the way it's been portrayed in this thread and others, might have benefits in encouraging people to believe in themselves and that's great. Believing in an afterlife might have benefits in cheering people up too, kids get a kick out of believing a man with a beard comes down the chimney and gives them presents every December, however it doesn't make it any more true.

Edited: 03/03/2012 at 09:33
03/03/2012 at 09:35
Anyway I'm just off to buy some old nag from a local horse sales, gonna train it up to win the Derby, should save myself a few million.
03/03/2012 at 09:36

Ching - you do deserve some credit for the level of obfuscation in those two posts, although not too much as it was so clearly obvious.

You fundamentally agree with the premise it takes both talent and dedication and then proceed to make a number of "counterpoints" to arguments that were never made in the first place.  Believe it or not it is possible to believe in the power of belief, the value of sport, the inspiration of mass participation and achievement, the need not to judge or limit yourself based on rate of initial improvement or starting point, the value and inherent lessons of dedicating yourself to something - and still believe to make it amongst the best requires more than an average dose of genetic talent.

As to my other point.  I think it is weak-minded to believe that we were all created equal and everyone has a fair crack of being the best at what they do if they put in the right level of effort.  Weak-minded as in:

a)  Having or exhibiting a lack of judgement.

b)  Easily swayed by propaganda or emotional manipulation tactics

That is very different from saying that if you don't feel you don't have the "ultimate genetic" potential you should act accordingly and do something else.

Edited: 03/03/2012 at 09:39
03/03/2012 at 09:37
x-post with popsider.
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