New research shows that those who can identify and regulate their emotions keep pushing when the going gets tough

In tests of endurance, some people push harder than others. These aren’t necessarily the people who collapse at the finish, who may simply have sprinted harder in the final straightaway. (Or have a flair for the dramatic.) During the long, lonely middle miles of a race, you make a thousand microdecisions about whether to press on or ease up. These decisions are mostly invisible to everyone else, but collectively they are the difference between a good race and a bad one.

We often talk about this ability to push with vague generalities – toughness, grit, focus and so on – but we don’t have any reliable way of quantifying the differences between those who push more and those who quit sooner. So I was interested to see a recent paper from three psychologists in Italy, led by Enrico Rubaltelli of the University of Padova, exploring the links between emotional intelligence and half-marathon performance. In a nutshell, their research found that those who were better at recognizing and regulating their emotions ran faster races.

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