Finding the way to athletic success, a quest of mine and millions of other athletes. I recall that at one time I bought into the 'you're born good' mentality, then I read about Ron Daws
If you were to ask most runners today who Ron Daws was they would probably say something like, "who"? Ron was a distance runner who was a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic marathon team,he also wrote one of the great all-time running books,The Self-Made Olympian. Part autobiography,part training guide,this book is unfortunately out of print. It is probably still available used on Amazon.
So what makes this book so good?
Ron writes that he really began to run seriously as a freshman in high school where he competed in cross country and track. His running continued through college where he had one,two and three mile bests of 4:30,9:43 and 15:22. Before I go on, let me say what most of you readers realize, that these times are not what you would expect from a future Olympian.To say they are unremarkable would be an understatement.Now, let's take a look a look at what he accomplished during his career:
1.Held the American records for 15 miles and 25 kilometers.
2.Four top ten finishes in the Boston Marathon.
3.A member of the Pan-American Games marathon team in 1967.
4.Qualified for the 1968 U.S. Olympic marathon team by finishing third at the trials race in Alamosa,Colorado. In doing so he beat several world class distance runners who held much better credentials than he.
5.Finished 22nd at the 1968 Olympic marathon.
After looking at the accomplishments listed above,one would have to ask,how did he get from being what appeared to be an average runner to one who became an American record holder and Olympian?
What made Ron Daws so special? Throughout the pages of his book the answers are given,answers that we can utilize to achieve our running goals. To those who believe you must have the genetics to succeed in athletics Ron said this: "I realized my physical talent was limited."
His quest began after watching Abebe Bikillia in the '64 Olympic marathon. Daws decided then that he wanted to make the next Olympic team.He then set a sequence of goals he wanted to achieve that would lead up to his ultimate objective. He began by formulating a training system that would prepare him physically.Ron was a big believer in the Lydiard system,about which he said: "Lydiard developed basic concepts 25 years ago that still remain the latest word in conditioning.....The whole purpose of his build-up was to prepare the runner to survive the grueling workouts and time trials that lead up to the racing season."
Ron also believed in paying attention to all facets of his racing and making adjustments when necessary.This included everything from acclimating himself to the heat and altitude, to customizing a pair of running shoes he bought from,believe it or not,J.C.Pennys'. He says: "I paid more attention to details than the others and was willing to pay the price required. Beating the odds is not all enthusiasm and hard work. It's also devising detours around seemingingly insurmountable obstacles." Stop for a moment and really consider the truth of what this man just said,it's so true.
Then there was Daws' attitude,he would not be deterred from reaching his goals. He said this:"It's just a matter of how badly one wants to get to the top. The ones who find it too much trouble devise excuses. In the end, it just means they really didn't want it. Ron then says: "Running is made in men's minds,it's owning the feeling that no matter what,nothing can stop you. No runner is so untalented that he cannot improve vastly enough to beat the more talented ones whose approach is less intense...who knows,you may venture into worlds never dreamed of."
It's not all about talent, it's about really wanting it, it's about finding a way, having the right attitude, using your brain as well as your muscles. That's the lesson of Ron Daws.