On my runs I often see the same people. One of those people I happened to see Friday night and we were headed the same direction going the same pace so we ran together for about five miles. He was talking about his kids in high school how one had success early and achieved greater success later while the other had difficulty early and achieved less success later, but a more valuable success because it was such hard work.
When I explain my running career thus far I mention that I had a breakthrough season in high school and then another one in college. Specifically after the one in college I wondered, if I did X amount of work to achieve A, then if I can do Y amount of work I can probably achieve B! I have not really clearly communicated the fact that I only stuck with running because I had a little success at an early stage. Specifically, my sophomore year of high school cross country. At the regional meet that year I ran 11:54 through two miles breaking my two mile PR by about 10 seconds and getting under 12 for the first time. I went on to run 18:54 for the 5k breaking 19 for the first time, I think, my memory is not prefect.
That was a huge race for me. It was a huge break through after running a couple of 20s at the beginning of the year and then mid 19s most of the season. Plus, our team placed third at that meet by I think one or two points and we went to state (I was 4th on the team and thus a scoring member). I got the flu or something the week of state and ran terribly, but the break through was accomplished.
That was the first season that things clicked. Until that season I was regularly beaten by the girls and lapped by most of the boys. In other words, a pretty typical start to a running career. I just happened to have a little bit of success fairly early, which not everybody has. I will not say that that season catapulted to me to serious training, I still thought that pre-season training meant easy running two weeks before the season started. However, I did enjoy running enough to run my first half marathon that winter and do some running in the off season and further improve over the next two and a half years of high school. If I had not had that success at that point, perhaps I would have quit the next year to do something else. We shall never know.
In America we often are chided for rewarding every young kid for participating and not for any actual accomplishment. I must admit I have soccer and baseball trophies and I have no idea if I won or lost. We just played the game. Growing up through the system of rewarded participation I am not sure wether it is good or bad. It worked out for me, I ended up doing the activities I enjoy the most and have a few skills that are applicable. Brain Sell is another example. The guy ran 15:30s 5ks his freshman and sophomore years of college at a D3 school. His marathon pace eight years later was 15:30s for all eight and a half 5ks. Had he not run those races early in college, he might have never transfered to a D1 school and never ran a 28 10k as a senior and never ran professionally. A little success at the right time goes a long way.