Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grinding My Way to Success: The ISTJ Marathon Runner

One of the members of my Chicago Running Posse, the fabulous Penny of 26.yikes, mentioned her Myers-Briggs Personality Type on Facebook today, and a discussion ensued. I took the test a long time ago, pre-running, when I wasn't bone-tired in the evenings and could stay up late taking long personality tests on the Internet.  I was pegged as an ISTJ, and I recall that the description I read was shocking in how much it resembled me.

I found this photo here. See, look at me, following the rules of blogging...
I have heard people say that the Myers-Briggs test is nothing more than the equivalent of an astrological sign (I'm a pretty typical Cancer too, in case you were wondering). But the facts don't lie, and there is a lot from the ISTJ personality type that applies to my running (I gleaned a lot of the following ISTJ personality traits from Wikipedia and this website):

The ISTJ has an extremely long attention span, and once he/she has a goal or task, will work tirelessly to fulfill it. In fact, this article states that schools cater to the 10% of the population who are ISTJs. We are the perfect rule-following worker bees. 

This summarizes my marathon training and racing philosophy in a nutshell: Put my head down and grind it out until I get it done. If I don't do it the first time, try again. And again. What I lack in natural talent, I attempt to make up for in sheer determination. 

ISTJ's believe that for the most part, established procedures are the best ones.  Um, hello, Mr. Pfitzinger. During this marathon training cycle, I hitched my train to his wagon and whatever he said, went. I am proud to say that I never missed or cut short any workouts for any reason, and I always met or exceeded the plan's weekly mileage totals. What? That isn't how everyone trains? Why not??? Read on...

Image found here.
If ISTJ's are not careful, they can become obsessed with rule-following and doing everything "by the book." Literally, since my plan was from a book.  At times, my preoccupation with mileage goals, training paces, and my McRun race-time predictor calculator threatened to overwhelm me. Luckily, I was able to recognize it and give myself a reality check. I was not curing cancer; I was trying to do well at a foot race. I will probably continue to struggle with this as long as I am chasing PRs, but admitting it is the first step. I think that my fueling mishap during the Chicago Marathon may go a long way toward loosening my anal-retentiveness, since now I know that success can happen even without perfect conditions!

ISTJ's prefer to be lone wolves, but will work well with others if needed. At my first 5K, I attempted to race with my friends. About a quarter-mile in, I realized they were no longer beside me. Even in training, I prefer to set my own pace and my own schedule. At some level, it is a necessity, due to my husband's and children's sometimes-crazy schedules. But even if I had all the time in the world to train, I would still prefer solitude. After races, however, I love social interaction!

When ISTJ's succeed, they usually see their accomplishments as simply the natural fulfillment of their hard work. I encountered this after each of my marathons; it took some time for what I had done to sink in, since part of me thought that since I worked so hard, success should be all but assured. After all the books, blogs and articles I have read which prove otherwise, I should know better!

Since ISTJ's often take their own efforts for granted, they have a tendency to take other people's efforts for granted, as well. I would like to think that I do a good job of encouraging others on their accomplishments (my children and husband, as well as other runners), but this is definitely not something to ever ever neglect!

Now Martha, that's a little harsh, don't you think?? Image found here.
Under stress, ISTJ's will focus incessantly on things they could have done differently, or tasks they did not complete to the best of their ability. Guilty. I had a few bad workouts and one sub-par race this training cycle, and they made me reevaluate my entire training plan and even my running hobby.  Again, some perspective is super-valuable, and I eventually got my mind back on track.

Overall, I dig being an ISTJ. It is too bad that despite a thorough Google search, I could not find "long-distance runner" as a suggested career or hobby for ISTJs. I guess they just figure that if ISTJ's work hard enough, they can make anything happen!

What Myers-Briggs Personality Type are you? Can you relate it to your running? How does it relate (if at all)?


  1. Interesting! I'd say I am pretty similar to you, but haven't taken the test!

    1. Awesome, Michelle! ISTJ Power!!! :)

  2. I got ESTJ. So I'd say we're pretty similar. I'm only a rule follower if the rules make sense to me. If the rules are there just because, nope, I won't follow them. This has made for some interesting life lessons for me! LOL!


    1. I have a feeling there are some stories there, Wendy! The way I prefer to think about is: I don't follow rules blindly; I just see the rule, and unless I am presented with some evidence that the rule should be broken (morally or otherwise), I give the rule the benefit of the doubt. I should really work for the DMV or something -- LOL!