Recently a friend and I were talking about racing and mental toughness. I feel I actually lie on the side of lesser mental toughness if only because I know I have to take care of my racing legs a little more than some others, because they are, in some way, how I make my living. As such, it is easier for me to rationalize a lesser effort when the going gets tough in one particular race because I know I have another one just around the corner.

This one particular friend, however, seems to be made of nothing but mental toughness.  She has had three children, all before the age of 30. Trying to fit long run after long run as she has moved onto ultramarathon training all around a family and a job and a spouse requires a certain amount of fortitude many do not have. When can she get in those runs? Around 5a.m. before all the children wake up. As a self-professed night owl, I cannot even begin to fathom waking up at that unholy hour to go for a run. Run a race? Sure. There are cheering fans, bagels and a shiny medal at the end. But trudge off into the cold snowy morning, running for the most part by myself, knowing that this is the only time I have to do this is truly impressive.

I find this same impressive attitude in so many people who cross my path.  There is, say, one time in the day when they can exercise and even if it is not desirable, they do it. They could just as easily not do the exercising, but they have made a decision to get into shape, train and prepare for something. That preparation requires a great deal of sacrifice. It requires the ability to often overcome perhaps less than impressive physical attributes and make up for them by committing to excel in the execution phase of what they wish to do.

The Tanzania runner, Juma Ikangaa once said: “To win means nothing without the will to prepare.” Without a doubt that will to prepare requires from all of us a certain amount of toughness above the shoulders. We must be willing to give up things we want, do things we don’t and picture that all of our sacrifices are for one specific goal.

To succeed.