Endurance, key to success in sport and life

Why is endurance the key to success in sport and life? And in business, art and any other human endeavour.

Because endurance is what makes us keep going. It’s what stops us giving up when things get tough.


Toby Wallace

Our endurance is tested in many ways.

Circumstances can test it, loss of a job, a business or a country. It is tempting to give up when the bills are mounting, when it’s a struggle to feed the children or pay the rent. I know what all those feel like.

Physical setbacks from accidents or illness can test our endurance. It can take years for victims of car accident, gun shot or other injuries to learn to walk again. It took my mother years of physiotherapy to walk after being shot in a terrorist ambush. Some never recover their mobility but discover the endurance to lead successful lives in different ways.

Sometimes we choose to test it ourselves when we voluntarily enter endurance sports events. Marathons, cycle races, triathlons.

Today I heard that two young men from what’s left of my old country have embarked on one of the most challenging endurance events imaginable.

Rowing across the Atlantic ocean from the Canary Islands to Barbados in the Oceanus rowing speed challenge

Mike Johnson and Murray Faber at 21 and 20 respectively, are the youngest members of an 8 man team attempting to break the record of 32 days. Their parents are some of the last few surviving farmers in Zimbabwe after the illegal and brutal campaign by the government to drive all white farmers off our farms.

The two oldest members of the team are both 68. There is a 4 women crew in a smaller boat attempting to break the 40 day record for female rowers.

The race distance is 2550 nautical miles or 4700 km according to Wikipedia. A month of hard physical exertion, danger, dry rations, sunburn, being wet and cold.

That will be an extreme test of endurance. Much more difficult than a marathon or an ultra-marathon.

Endurance is developed incrementally.

I know from my experience that it’s almost impossible for a non-runner to find the physical or mental endurance to run a 42.2 km marathon. But that untrained runner can complete a 3km distance even if he or she has to walk part of it.

With the endurance from that first, short, stumbling, run it is only a small step to a 5km, another step to a 10km and more steps up to a marathon or a 100 miler.

The rowers in the Toby Wallace are all experienced rowers and have competed in many extreme events. The achievements of the two oldest are amazing. Their profiles are all on the Oceanus website at the link above.

Just like in sports, we can build up our endurance to survive life’s challenges by becoming comfortable with uncomfortable situations. Accepting that surviving today’s small challenge will prepare us for tomorrow’s or next year’s bigger one.

Losing my first house was disastrous, the second easier to get over. Surviving and bouncing back from those events and others, made the great disaster of being imprisoned and losing our farm in Zimbabwe easier to survive.

How is your endurance? How do you nurture it? Leave a comment.

photo courtesy Oceanus.


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  4 comments for “Endurance, key to success in sport and life

  1. Roberta
    February 3, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    I don’t talk about this much; for many reasons. However, my endurance was built up over many childhood and teenage years because both of my parents were alcoholics. They hated each other and fought openly in front of us. To make it worse, my mother was also bi-polar.

    I did not know that other children did not grow up the same way for many years.

    As rough as those years were I grew up knowing life was no bed of roses…..unless you made the bed…..or pretended the bed was roses.

    While I do not recommend my childhood, I learned many life skills and knew that life was neither fair nor easy.

    This knowledge has served me well in many circumstances.

    Over many years as an adult I made my peace with both parents and learned many things that made them what and who they were. Like all of us they were imperfect humans trying to do they best they could.

    It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.
    Lucius Annaeus Seneca

    • Peter
      February 9, 2016 at 8:30 am

      Thank you for sharing that story about your childhood Roberta. That you were able to make peace with your parents shows that you were able to rise above your circumstances.

      That quotation by Seneca should be engraved above the door of every government building offering welfare handouts.

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