Thursday, March 15, 2018

Once More, Draper On Discipline

It is my observation that in recent years discipline is not as common a human attribute in people as it once was. Figures showing that well over 50% of Americans are overweight and surveys that cite a significant drop in youth(teens) participation in organized sports would appear to, in part, confirm this.
Also, we are now more of a spectator nation than we have ever been. As I am sure you all know, serious involvement in anything, not just sports, requires discipline. Please note that Dave Draper echoes a theme of Cerutty's in the last sentence of the following quote,involvement in athletics have benefits that go beyond the physical:  

"Discipline is not owned by repeating mantras, reading a book, watching a video or following a formula. 
Discipline is founded in need and desire and developed in deed. Discipline is yours.
You want something, if you can't buy it or steal it, you must work for it. The more you want and need it, the harder you try to get it. The wanting and needing, the working, trying and getting combine and eventually present discipline. Great or small, this stoic quality is a benefactor assuring that you become a better person, more complete and capable and aware, as you pursue your healthy and humble goal giving it your very best shot."

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On Committing and Becoming Successful

The following by is Joe Vigil, a highly successful coach, what he says applies not just to athletics:

"Once the decision to undertake the lifestyle necessary to become successful in athletics has been made, you must make the commitment to overcome all the pitfalls which will clutter your path and continue to march on.
Remember that indecision to direct your life along a positive course is probably the greatest thief of opportunity you can encounter.
A life of adventure and self-fulfillment is filled with many decisions, good ones and bad ones, but never give up the spirit to succeed.
You have to teach yourself not to worry about the mistakes you make along the way but have to develop the courage to persevere."

A positive mental attitude and a never give up spirit are the two attributes you read over and over again by people who have accomplished their goals.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Something To Contemplate

Tomorrow is promised to no one. I have seen the truth of this statement more and more as each year passes.
So many things can happen that could change what you do and how you live in an instant.
Each day we need to remind ourselves of this. What follows are some things to consider.

"The Best Day-Today,
The Best Work-What You Like,
The Greatest Stumbling Block-Your Ego,
The Greatest Mistake-Giving Up,
The Greatest Need-Common Sense,
The Greatest Wealth-Health,
The Great Sin-Fear,
Your Enemies-Envy, Greed, Self-Indulgence, Self-Pity,
Life's Greatest Adventure-growth on the Physical,Mental and Spiritual Plane,
The Greatest Race To Win---A Long Vigorous,Purposeful Life,"
(author unknown).

Do not wait for some still undetermined time in the future to live the life YOU want!

Herb Elliott On What Runnning and Racing Should Be

Herb Elliott was the 1960 Olympic champion in the 1500m, as well as a world record holder at that distance and the one mile run. His 3:35.6 at the Olympics set a world record that lasted for over seven years.He lost only once in his career and that was at age 14.
As Percy Cerutty's most famous student, Elliott became the ideal of what a real athlete should be. Articulate and insightful,Elliott always has much to offer when interviewed. Here is what he said in response to an interviewer asking him if there is anything that runners can learn from his career:

"Running is a tool by which you can learn alot about yourself and develop yourself both physically and spiritually as a person. That's the way it should be viewed. People who focus totally on the evident achievement of winning races or winning gold medals often are the ones that run into all sorts of psychological problems when they retire because they haven't fit it into their life.They shifted it out of their life and made it a selfish focus."

A few things come to mind as I read what Herb said. One is the countless number of successful athletes who seem to be lost after their career is over. Many get into trouble with the law, abuse drugs and alcohol or become involved in some kind of misadventure(s).
Then there are the athletes who attempt to make a comeback after a few years of their retirement.

The common theme, as readers to this blog know, is your involvement in athletics should be more than just a physical experience. It can be a vehicle to become a complete person; disciplined,
insightful and intelligent.
However, this will only happen to those who are seekers and regard their athleticism(in whatever sport) as essential to their lives as eating and sleeping.
Cerutty's books and writings can be the guide to your quest for excellence.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cerutty On Why You Should Say No To Roads

Cerutty had a lot to say about why hard surfaces like the roads should be avoided in training. Many think he was against them primarily because they were not "natural" and as stimulating mentally as the trails, dunes and parks. That was only part of his reason for his advocating staying off the roads and hard tracks.
Consider the following:

"The muscles and the tendons in the legs are like springs and the hard roads and racing track take out the natural bounce, potentially causing serious or permanent injuries. Running on natural surfaces of sand, grass and dirt all strengthen as does changing the terrain which varies the amount of pressure placed on the muscle groups."

Cerutty also wrote that habitual training on the roads will eventually lead to a shortening of the athlete's stride.
After decades of training and seeing what has happened to those who ran exclusively on hard surfaces I see the wisdom of Cerutty's words.
Back and leg problems have put an end to all but a few of the athletes I ran with in the 70's.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Why Poor Marathon Performances?

The reasons for poor marathon performances are many. I'd be willing to bet that anyone who has run more than a few has had at least one. Oh, the disappointment! All the preparation, all that excitement and anticipation!
It's easy to identify why a marathon went bad, some of the causes we have control over, others we don't. Consider the following;

1.Bad weather. Not much you can do about that. I've known runners who've "bagged" their race the morning of due to the weather and picked another marathon somewhere else a week or two later.
2. A big one here: starting out too fast. You get caught up in the race day excitement and run those early miles much quicker than you had planned. This is something that should only happen to an inexperienced runner.
3. Insufficient hydration and electrolyte replacement before and during the race. If you dehydrate or run out of fuel, you're done. Experimenting beforehand with drinking fluids during long training runs is essential.
4. Not doing enough pre-race preparation. Here is one example of faulty preparation-- During my marathon days, the backbone of marathon preparation was the weekly 20 miler. I don't know how it was for you but everyone I knew did a weekly or twice monthly 20 miler. The problem I found early on was that the race is 26 miles, not 20. Derek Clayton (pictured above) said he always made a point of running the marathon distance once a week. I am not recommending this but I found that three, 24 to 26 milers incorporated into my marathon training worked very well.
5.Here is another big one: insufficient tapering for the race. A sufficient marathon taper involves "backing off" for two weeks prior to THE day.
Think about it, months of training, much of it stressful, now it's time to intelligently back off and allow your body to rest and recharge.
This is a common rookie mistake, but, I can't tell you how many experienced runners, athletes who should have known better but still couldn't back off those final two weeks. Some of them had been training and focusing on their marathon for 6 to 8 months, did they really think they were going to lose it all in the last 14 days?
After being around runners for as long as I have, I see the common cause of this "failing to taper" as  uncontrolled anxiety. I think of what a wise old runner once told me, while pointing to his head he remarked : "you run with this as well as your legs."
I will offer a final bit of advice regarding the marathon and I have written on this subject before.
If you want to race a  marathon (emphasis on race),  I believe it is something that you work up to after years of running and racing. It is a distance that is not to be taken lightly. Preparatory races from the 10k, to the 20 km to the half marathon to the 30k should be in every sensible runner's resume before tackling the marathon.
There is no pain quite like that experienced by a runner who tried to race a marathon but "crashed" because he or she hadn't done the necessary prep work.

Each race, good or bad, each workout, provides an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. Take advantage of that.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sittin' and Waitin'--Not the Stotan Way To Race

"I rarely go into a race with preconceived tactics. The only tactics I admire are those of do or die," quote by Herb Elliott.
We've all experienced it before,you're in a race,cruisin' along,thinking you are doing the best you can when you become aware that someone is running a little behind you. Initially paying it no mind you find yourself becoming mildly annoyed when this runner is still with you a half-mile or so later. As this continues you try throwing in a few brief surges to drop him but they remain a step or two behind. With the finish in sight you pick it up with intentions of finishing fast and strong. At the same time your unwanted running partner also picks it up and blows by you to finish 10 yards in front. The above described tactic of sitting,leeching, and then kicking it in, is what I call hangin' and bangin'. And folks,I've got a confession,I've utilized this technique in the past as part of my race "strategy." I don't believe it would be a stretch to say many of you have done this also. However,I have come to learn that this is not the Stotan way to race,and in many but not in all cases, it is a gutless way to race.

 In a related matter, I remember watching either the '88 or '92 Olympic 1500 meter final as the best in the world ran an extremely slow race for 1300 meters and then kicked it in with 200 meters to go. The finishing time was the slowest 1500meter final since the 1952 Olympics race. All I could think was,what kind of way is that to race one of the most prestigious races?

So where do I get off saying sitting and kicking it in is not the way to go? I should clarify this statement by saying it's not the Stotan way. You only have to read the quote at the beginning of this article plus the two I'm about to write to conclude that anyone who purports to be a Stotan would not use the hang and bang strategy. Former world marathon record holder Derek Clayton said: "I've never been one for sitting back in a race no matter how I feel. I prefer to go 20 miles and blow it for a fast pace rather than go the whole distance and finish about 10th or 20th."
 Not surprisingly Cerutty nails it when he says: "Rather be beaten than let another athlete make all the pace and beat him in the last few yards."
As a thought, it's interesting in reading the above that this go for it mentality was part of their character unlike those of us who have to make a conscious decision to be more aggressive in our racing. Some runners I've spoken to about this subject say, "who cares, I'm not a Stotan so what value is this type of strategy to me?" Consider this:
Take a moment and think about this "go for it" mentality. Ever run a race and believe you're doing rather well,you're running smoothly and efficiently telling yourself that with a half or three-quarters of a mile to go you'll begin a long kick to the finish? However, as you approach this point the inevitable fatigue(translation-pain) sets in and your plan of stepping it up becomes one of maintaining pace. Running a race aggressively could eliminate this from occurring but I would keep two things in mind: #1. This strategy shouldn't be done if you aren't in proper condition to do so. Too many people race without being in shape. It only takes a visit to a local road race to confirm this statement. #2. As Cerutty wrote: "this (strategy) does not mean we go off like a frightened hare but we have acquired an instinct for pace."

As we reassess our training periodically we also need to do so with our racing.