Author: Brian Grehan

Persistence & Determination = Success

…………….Motivational quotes and Taper Madness!!


“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge (President of the United States of America 1923-1929)


Last week some of our colleagues here in TPI ran the Dublin City Marathon   –  some running pals of mine also did it and despite the rain and wind we had a great day cheering them all on!!

In the previous weeks the emails have been flying amongst the gang, weather updates, course highlights, best wishes, arrangements for before and after the race, more weather updates and also a very peculiar symptom of marathon fever, the “motivational quote”.

I’ve read dozens of them last week. I wasn’t running the race so I more read them out of curiosity. This phenomenon of sending 4 or 5 inspiring quotes to fellow runners in the days running up to a race seems a bit OTT  –  but any search on line will show how inspirational quotes are a particularly common, and seemingly vital, tool used by runners!!

Of all the quotes I read though, this one by Coolidge about persistence really struck a chord with me, for life in general as well training!

It also struck me(in the week that’s in it) how important and complex “motivation” is for marathon runners. They seek it everywhere and it feeds them. Each motivational tool only lasts a short time and then they have to find a new one. They use it up and then find another. Its like fuel in an engine, it need to be topped up regularly along the journey or it stops! The motivations keep changing along the 3 to 4 months of a marathon programme. Each motivation inspires you and gets you through the adversity.

– I’ll do it to lose weight!

– I always wanted to run a marathon some day!

– I’ve paid that entrance money, now I HAVE to do it!

 – Can I do it as fast as my brother did!!?

– This new Garmin cost a fortune so I better get my money’s worth!

– If I keep this training up, I can do it in x time!?

…….and on and on and on.

The training experience itself is very much like a roller-coaster!!  Months of determination, fear, exhaustion, recovery, pain, boredom, injury, endorphins, infallibility, illness, euphoria, success, failures, good days and bad days. It all sounds a bit dramatic but that is what training for a 26.2 mile race feels like.  Every feeling and experience is heightened and intensified by effort and exhaustion in a most dramatic fashion!

A kind of madness develops  –  and these quotes and mails I’ve been reading the past week or so relate to this madness. This aspect of it(in the weeks just before the race) has a specific name “Taper Madness”.

In the 3 weeks before the race you have to cut back your mileage a lot. This is called tapering. Its running less and less in each week and then virtually running nothing the final week before the race. This is to rest the body and let it heal. Fresh energy builds up in your legs as a result but at the same time the nerves begin to fray! The endorphins generated from running disappear and the worry sets in! Suddenly you have lots of spare time and you don’t know what to do with it. You experience “Runners guilt” and worry about suddenly putting on weight and losing fitness. You worry about carb fuelling and toilet stops and what gear you will wear. You spend hours on-line searching for marathon advice just to shave a few seconds off your time. You obsess about not picking up germs. Hand sanitizer usage goes through the roof and you start to concentrate on avoiding people who might be sick – especially children who suddenly seem like petri dishes for germs!. You suffer from training amnesia, so more than once a day have to open your training Excel spreadsheet to study all the runs you have done and reassure yourself. You were an addict, a running addict and now you’ve gone cold turkey. You desperately seek new motivations to battle these adversities – and that’s where these motivational quotes and all the other symptoms of Taper Madness come into their own  –  they help you stay focused on doing well and finishing the race.



Though strange as it sounds finishing a marathon isn’t the hardest part. Nearly everybody who starts, finishes the race (98%)  … many go through hell to so but they do it.  The hardest part is getting to the start line not the finish line!! Getting to the start line fit, rested and ready, that is the toughest part! Its giving the preparation your best effort and persevering despite the inevitable knock backs that is hardest.

Last year over 14,600 people registered and paid their money for the Dublin city marathon. 12,576 people started the race on the day and there were only 280 people who did not finish the race. That means there was over 2000 people who had paid their €80 for the race but did not make it to the start line   …… and of course there were many more thousands who planned to do the marathon but dropped out before they even registered.

I was very nearly one of the 2000 when I registered for my first marathon, the Dublin Marathon. Two weeks before the race, after months of hard training and overcoming several niggles, I picked up one more strain and couldn’t run anymore. I was crushed and embarrassed and sat down and actually apologised to my long suffering wife, explaining how I’d probably have to walk half the race and wouldn’t do myself justice. So I was going to drop out altogether and do it next year instead! (all part of my particular taper madness)

In the days before the race thankfully my calf started to feel better and I decided what the hell, if I had to walk the race so be it.

It turned out to be one of the most rewarding sporting experiences of my life. The crowds were amazing and family and friends turned out to cheer me on. I stopped a few times during the race to stretch my leg but I never had to walk and was able to keep on jogging and I ended up with a surprisingly good time.

In that endeavour I was determined and I was persistent and I succeeded   –  in others I have to say I have not though  ….. I have been determined to do many marathons but I have not persisted unfortunately!

We could all take stock of the truth in Calvin Coolidge’s words  –  and try to remember them in our challenges, personal and professional   ……and hopefully we can pass them on to our children too.

You may not have the most natural talent, you may not be the tallest boy or the fastest runner in the class, you may not be the smartest boy in the school  and you will have set backs  –   but if you really want it, you can do it  …….just be persistent, be persistent, be persistent!