On Sunday, Shalane Flanagan did what no American woman has done in 40 years: Win the New York City Marathon. She finished a full minute ahead of the three-time defending champion, Kenya's Mary Keitany.
Flanagan suffered a stress fracture in her back last winter, an injury that kept her from training for ten weeks. Due to the injury, and the fact she hadn't run a marathon for over a year, she changed her training, shortening her prep schedule and doing fewer workouts in between long runs. "My coaches told me that it was possible -- the training I put in was the best I've ever put in," Flanagan said.
And then she said something we can all learn from.
"I've been dreaming of a moment like this since I was a little girl," she said. "It means a lot to me, to my family. Hopefully it inspires the next generation of women to just be patient. It took me seven years to do this. A lot of hard work went into this one moment."
Everyone wants to be successful. Of course, your definition of success can and should be different -- because success should mean something different to each of us -- but still: We all want to succeed at whatever we choose to do. (Otherwise, why do it?)
Success is often based on outworking other people -- both in terms of effort and hours spent. Yet success is also based on patience. Staying the course. Perseverance is absolutely critical.
You can't be there at the end if you aren't actually there at the end.
You can't always control timing. You can't always control any number of factors. But what can you always control?
How hard you work and how long you work.
Again, everyone defines success differently, as we should. But if you define success as accomplishing something you set out to accomplish, especially something incredibly difficult or challenging, hard work and perseverance are the great equalizers.
You may not be smarter than everyone else. You may not be as talented. You may not have the same great connections, the same great environment, or the same great education. If you're on the downside of advantage, you may have none of those things.
But you can always rely on your courage, your effort, and your patience. You can always substitute effort for skill and experience, secure in the knowledge that, over time, incredible effort will breed skill and experience.
Hard work. Patience.
You can always, always, always work harder -- and longer -- than everyone else.
And you can always be patient: Both with yourself, and with others.