Monday, February 9, 2015

Persistence Hunt

            In his groundbreaking book, “Born to Run”, Christopher McDougall discusses a fascinating, non-weaponized, hunting technique used by pre-historic man. Rather than trying to outrun their much faster prey, hunters would instead attempt to outlast them. Because an animal’s natural instinct is to sprint away if approached, the men would run towards them in an effort to keep them constantly moving.

Based on bio-mechanics, a four legged animal is designed for speed but not for endurance. In their natural horizontal running position, they can only breathe once per stride thereby being less efficient at bringing oxygen into their system and less able to pant in order to cool themselves down in warm conditions. Man, on the other hand, runs vertically on two legs which reduces pressure on the lungs allowing him to breathe more freely while running (albeit at a slightly slower pace) under the same conditions. And, since the men could breathe while running at that slow but steady pace, they were are able to recover on the run, while the hunted animal never had time to do so. Because, once they got away far enough to slow down and try to catch their breath again, their ever-vigilant chasers had caught up to them once more.

Eventually, after a few hours of this, the prey (already in into oxygen debt) would overheat, collapse from exhaustion and fall victim to their much slower (but persistent) pursuers. In other words, by using their innate ability to go further, while expending less energy, the hunters would quite literally run their prey to death. Anthropologists call this ingenious technique “Persistence Hunting” and it’s more or less how I’ve approached my life, both in and out of running.

            Not being blessed with an over-abundance of talent, speed, or good looks I’ve had to make do with what I’ve been given. Namely, good old fashioned stubbornness. And plenty of it! Things haven’t necessarily come easy for me and I’ve had to overcome a significant number of obstacles along my journey. I have been able to achieve a certain level of success in my job, my relationships, my parenting and my running based purely on persistence.

I’ve known for a long time that my goals would likely never be met by way of a sprint, but rather by a marathon. I knew that I could only reach my dreams if I chipped away bit by bit, patiently but persistently pursuing, until ultimately I outlasted them. It is quite literally in my DNA to behave this way. This has always been the case for me and, I assume, will continue to be - so long as I’m still breathing and vertical.

            The good news, for you anyway, is that anyone (and I mean anyone) can achieve their own personal successes in the exact same way. If I can do it, you can certainly do it! You just have to be willing to put in the proper amount of work, be patiently determined for the task at hand, and keep your eyes focused on the prize. Even if your goal is just to run a mile (rather than a hundred) without stopping, you must believe that it can be achieved so long as you are stubbornly persistent enough to make it happen.

And, who knows? Once you’ve run that mile, you might even decide to go a little further.

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