Running vs Practice

Last November I turned 25. As a result, I decided it was time to look after myself, and my health. So on December 1st 2013 I restarted my running. I ran over 40km that month and am on course to beat that in January. I’m working my way through a Couch-10K app for anyone who is interested.

The regular practice of running has led me to ponder the similarities between running and music.

Firstly, I am not a gifted runner. Anyone who went to school with me can testify to that. BUT, having been working at it for a number of weeks I’m a lot fitter than I used to be. So if someone who is naturally gifted at running never trains, could they still beat the less talented but conscientious trainer? I’m not so sure.

You can apply this analogy to music. I admit that from an early age, teachers seemed to think I had an aptitude for the harp, and this, coupled with years of practice has allowed me to get to where I am now. But, had I not practiced and just trusted my ‘gift’, I wouldn’t have got anywhere.

This comes back to the whole nature/nurture debate. When people tell me how lucky I am to have such a talent (implying that I was somehow born being able to put on a full evening recital), I want to tell them actually no it’s not luck – I worked damn hard to be able to do this (I don’t actually say that, it comes across as rude for some reason). I feel that putting achievements down to talent alone is inaccurate and insulting to those who work hard every day to be able to do what they do.

The same with running, right now there is no way I could run a marathon (or even a half), but with training and regular practice, who knows how far I could go (pun intended). Maybe what we are born with is the potential, what we do with it is up to us.

Another similarity between the two disciplines. You can practice for years and it never feels any easier. What was hard for me in the first week of December I now do regularly, but now I am working on more challenging things. When practising, you are always pushing yourself to be better, to achieve more, to go faster, to improve technique. As a result, practising will always feel hard. It is about finding your own weak spots and putting them under a microscope. It’s a search and destroy mission to remove weaknesses in performance. It is mentally and physically draining, and if you aren’t passionately committed to it, it will be very unpleasant.

Still, it’s a voyage of discovery. It’s satisfying to be able to do things you were previously unable to do. A future post will be talking about how to practice effectively (musically speaking). Proficiency in any discipline is very satisfying, not to mention absolutely vital if you are attempting to make a career of it.

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2 Comments

  1. I think you nailed it – practicing, if we are doing it effectively, is going to be hard. However I delight in looking back at what I was working on a year ago, or even 6 months ago, that was totally boggeling my fingers, and that I can do with little effort today. My teacher says that talent helps, but it’s the work you put into the practice that makes you make progress.
    People have so little understanding of how hard musicians have to work to make playing look effortless. I also get quite annoyed when people assume that playing the harp is due to some talent I was born with (so definitely not!) If anything, playing the harp is due to my stubbornness and persistence (which by all accounts, I WAS born with) and refusal to give up.
    Congrats on your running progress and accomplishments! I look forward to your post on practicing.

    1. Hehe, I can definitely relate to the stubbornness and persistence! You need a certain type of personality to be able to practice in a room on your own for extended periods of time!

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