What we need are heroes

I believe that one of the reasons for periods of time when certain nations or even regions dominate in any particular sport, is the presence of heroes. There are others factors, certainly, but being surrounded by people one knows or you can relate to who are doing amazing things, tends to be a hugely motivating force.

For an in-depth discussion of the role that heroes plays in motivating others, Rasmus Ankersen’s book, the Gold Mine Effect, is a great place to start and you can read the interview I did with Rasmus here.

But for now, I am going to stick with my assertion that heroes are important – whether that is the people in your running club or running group or a relative or friend or indeed a national hero.

Heroes and their heroes

And the best runners I have ever met keep confirming this to me. In the past few months I have been interviewing some amazing runners for my Lessons From The Legends series of articles in Running Fitness magazine. The same thing keeps coming up time and time again:

  • Mike McLeod used to rock up to the sea-front in Newcastle to run with a group including Steve Cram.
  • Bill Adcocks trained at Coventry Godiva at a time when the club was home to Olympic, Commonwealth and European marathon medalists.
  • Richard Nerurkar was pushed by school- and club-mates as well as rivals throughout his career and was inspired watching the likes of Dave Bedford and Brendan Foster when he was younger.

These runners were in contact with people who were their heroes and rivals and inspired them to train harder and be more consistent in order to become better and better runners.

They don’t make ’em like they used to

Image © Getty Images

I think that one of the problems with distance running now is that recently there haven’t been running heroes that have captured the imagination of runners of every level. And I know that one swallow does not a summer make, but Mo Farah could just be the person to ignite the fire.

His heroics at the Olympics were astounding and made him a household name. He has also clearly inspired Galen Rupp and Chris Thompson and others at the top level to do better. That is a start.

But imagine what could be if Mo moves up to the marathon and has an impact there? Well, his coach Alberto Salazar has just announced that he could be attempting the 10000m  and marathon double in Rio in 2016 (more details can be found here) I just hope that is realistic because I think that if Mo could do for men’s running what Paula has done for women’s running, then by the time I hang up my racing flats in a few years, we could well be on the road to a new era of great marathon runners coming out of the UK. We can only hope!


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