Grit or willingness to push yourself

After a conversation with a friend who I was racing with on Sunday at a 10k it got me thinking. Arguably he is in better running shape than me at the moment, 30-45 secs faster over a 5km than me. Anyway I happened to beat him by 20 secs or so as he faded towards the end. After he said he really needed to work on his grit and something he hadn’t had to really do with other sports, tennis or football.

So it got me thinking. Do you think you’ve ever under or over performed because you were/weren’t willing to push yourself past that point. Or maybe beaten other individuals in a race who should absolutely be finishing ahead of you but maybe lacked that grit. And if so how do you think you built up or trained that ‘grit’?


Surely it’s more to do with pacing, holding back enough to go full beans at the end?


I’m not necessarily referring to just short distance running here. It could be an ultra, triathlon, long distance cycle race etc. Of course pacing is relevant but I’m sure we all have different points were our brains says I can’t keep going.


Been on boths sides of that coin many times. I think anything short , say up to marathon distance and it can be about grit.

Get beyond that, you’re really asking a different question for all but the elite. If a race is going past 10hrs or so, then it can be about grit but IME, it’s more about how to deal with adversity. This could be a bad mechanical that puts you in the hole for the run leg, or knowing you’re going into long night of darkness and solitude in an ultra.
The longer the distance (or duration) the more it’s about answering a never ending series of questions really.

For the shorter stuff it can be tricky, I’ve had races where I should have done better and others that were a surprise and I just ‘hung on’. In reality though, there should be no real surprises on race day and if you’re approaching the race having had to ‘adjust expectations’ then you ignored your training data, either purposely or subconsciously, this excludes injuries in a race of course.

Sometimes ‘grit’ is just finishing and sometimes it’s taking names. I was watching Ben Parkes cruise to an ‘easy’ 37.40 10km last night and I kept thinking, FMD the 10km is a hard distance. Too long for all out and too short to recover from a mistake.

I always did better at track racing on the bike than I should have and those races are over in seconds but it seems like an eternity when you’re really on it. It’s all relative.


I think you’re talking about a number of things: competitiveness, motivation, determination vs perseverence, fortitude etc.

They are all subtly different. I’ve met many ‘determined’ people over the years; but when it comes to the crunch, they lack the perseverence or fortitude to see something through.


My MSc thesis viewed the ‘no pain no gain’ era through the lens of athlete centred coaching…or at least tried to…


I definitely don’t have it.

Every single time I have been in a head to head situation in a race with another athlete, something in my head says “yeah, 2nd will do” :man_shrugging:

Zwift racing is probably the thing that I found comes closest to challenging that for some reason.


there is a rather well known athlete who beat me every time out for 17 years. On every occasion i would shake his hand and say well done.

i saw him just ahead in a race as we went into the last mile and overtook him not too far from the finish. He refused to shake my hand and went off in a huff.

Whilst i thought that he is very ignorant, it is not inconceivable that he is far more competitive than me at least in triathlon…


Yeah. Same.

Grit is over-rated anyhow.


I find in a sprint situation, if I’m going to give up, it’s usually if I’m leading. I prefer chasing.

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There is definitely a case of being ‘up for it’. For things like an FTP test for example, I can get 2 different results with no change in fitness just by having my mind in the game. And I will always go quicker with a number on than in training. As for racing against someone, I definitely get the voices telling me that 2nd is OK, but negotiate with them - just stick it out for another minute, another mile, whatever, before conceding, and often that’s enough to push through a rough patch.

I used to run against a guy who had better times than me over most distances, yet I could beat him every time we raced. I knew I just had to run on his shoulder and he would fade. Worked every time except the race where he was obviously ‘in the zone’, so much that he ran a massive pb, beat me by minutes, and ended up in the medical tent.


I’m quite into this.
Is this not variable?!
I’ve done stuff we’re I’ve gone to the well and some, and people say “ your one tough bastid”

I’ve also just “ jacked” for no apparent reason, people don’t say “ mate your a bit of a wanker”
But they could have several times in my Fitness career.

Deva 70.3 2017? I think I jacked with 7k to go as I thought I had 20
Mins to run 7kms to go sub 5, I had 40! And
Just stopped and said my calf had gone, to this day I have no idea why I did this and I’m not sure I’ve ever admitted it in public.

Deva 70.3 2019.
Grudge match with 3 younger/ faster athletes
That I’m still friends with … ran at 155bpm for the first 14 kms and at the point I jacked 3
Years earlier I went…turned myself inside out and suffered like a dog in the sun,I was in agony, I ran past all three of them in the last 5k.

Same guy same race depends how much you want it, there are people on here
Who can do that every race, I 100% can’t


There’s a bit to unpack here, in my opinion. Willingness to push through is not necessarily a good thing. On short course I haven’t ever “given in”, but on long course for sure I think there is a sensible point to listen to your body and back off. I’ve seen so many people looking like they are crippling themselves on the run leg, I’d rather lose 30-60mins and be healthy.


Absolutely, and I’d argue most of those can come under the topic of ‘grit’

Yep there is, thats why I thought it would make an interesting topic to discuss!

When it comes to races I know I will always go faster. Multiple times I’ve ran at ‘race pace’ during training for half the distance and thought how the hell will I keep that up, yet I have.

I’ve always felt I’m pretty willing to put myself in the bin, whether that be during a tough training session or a race, but I do wonder, how did I get here? But I fully appreciate I am a very competitive person. On the keeping going, for me it is about breaking it down into manageable chunks until its the final 5km or 1500m or whatever it might be. There has also been times where I’ve felt exhausted and not in the mood for a session, but I’ve gone out got it done and performed it way better than I expected and I think that helps push your ‘what am I capable of barrier’ obviously there is a fine balance to being stupid and causing yourself injury. But in the case here I am mostly referring to not going as far as causing yourself harm. The average casual fitness individual (outside of this forum most likely) will usually give up well before they are actually physically able, how can they learn to push themselves beyond that learned point (should they want to)?


You quoted 10k so I referred to that but it works for Ironman as well. If you give everything on the bike then your run is going to be terrible (as I found out in NZ when that was my plan, gun the bike and blag the run - didn’t work and I got a personal worst and gave up triathlon).

The last 10k I did I wanted to break 50 minutes so I knew if I averaged 5-minute kilometers for the first 5k I was on track - that’s down to fitness and pacing and something I worked out and rehearsed leading up to the event. The second 5km were about upping the pace and keeping an eye on heart rate as once you go in the red it’s a case of holding on and you physically can’t hold on for more than a kilometer or two because it’s impossible to go anerobic for that long. Anyway, I kept at 5min/km until two to go then let rip and finished with 48:52, a PB, smashed the chap who was goading me on leading up to the race and a recorded max HR at the finish.

Coming from the era of HTFU, it’s all bullshit. You can’t go anerobic for long and there is a payback that takes you into negative time territory. If you push your heart rate up too early in any race it’ll stay up and you’ll suffer. Rehearse the race over and over and execute it on the day.


To be blunt, I don’t give enough of a shit.

When your options are - work hard, but have a life and finish 70th out of a hundred, or go all in make loads of sacrifices and make your family hate you and come 45th, who cares?

When I did London in 4:10 I had various marathon running mates tell me I could do sub 3:30 with more training and I was like, why on earth would I do that? What difference does it actually make to anyone, it’s not like I’m in line for winning the thing so what does it matter.

For me the ‘grit’ is in setting the challenge and seeing it through on the day. I’m not saying I just do the bare minimum, cos I don’t, but I’m not prepared to make the compromises that would be necessary to really push myself to the edge of my capability. If nothing else it would almost certainly suck the fun out of it.


I interpreted this question to be how much are you prepared to sacrifice and suffer on the day - not necessarily how much are you prepared to sacrifice in the build up. So you have done the training you have done, and you could run a 4 hour marathon, but that last 10K is gonna hurt and you might not be able to walk down stairs for a few days. Or you can run 4:10 and wave and smile at the crowd, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy your post-race party.

The distribution of marathon finish times suggests there are a lot of people in the former category, for whom beating an arbitrary barrier is motivating. Think I envy you if you can rise above that.


Trust me I was suffering :smile:

I was massively motivated to finish and do what I considered to be doing myself justice (and not walking). But having done it I have zero motivation to do another one solely based on chopping 15 mins off the time as a target, or to go faster than a mate or whatever.

Massively interesting question though. I’m definitely someone who will push through to complete a goal, but beyond that I’m pretty content and don’t compare myself to others. I guess it’s not a competitive spirit in the traditional sense.


It’s a good point.

If you’re on an improvement curve, racing to beat your PB or whatever is probably a good competitive mind set. But there probably is a point at which it’s not. I might be at that point.

But then there’s the follow up question of whether to race at all.

A recent example of grit can’t be much more on the money than Lucy Charles starting the run in pain and pushing through for 42.2km for the WC. She had a lot on the line, she knew the risk and made a choice.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a position like that, even scaled back to my pitiful performance. Other people have said that the grim determination to keep walking for hours to get to the finish line is a different kind of grit.


Exactly this :clap:t3::clap:t3::clap:t3:

I drove past an old race course this evening…

peaks Ultra40 (before Everyman and his dog did it)
Some guy ran with me for the last 10 or so miles from Ashbourne into Derby, then gunned it with a mile to go. I limped in and he’d fucked off when I finished. That hurt. I got 4th.

ForestMan, same thing, in 3rd place. 800m to the finish, aiming for sub11, some guy gunned it past me, I exploded and limped in at 11:01 :person_shrugging:t3:

Prior year I’d hopped the marathon in 6hours.
Temporarily paralysed myself for two weeks afterwards. Nice.

Done a 5:00.7 mile, 17:07 5km, 35:01 10km and a 1:20:41 HM. A bit of grit might have got me under the arbitrary shitty little times people care so much about, but really, WGAF?

It’s all so pointless.