Is it war or is it fun?

I have read two articles today which overlapped in my mind and created this blog post.

The first piece was from a recruitment consultant who was decrying the ubiquity of training programmes suggesting that ‘anything is possible’. The author of the piece wrote that this approach is hugely unhelpful – in her piece she was writing about the long-term unemployed – because it created false hope (delusion, even) that inevitably resulted in disappointment when the world-leading, epoch-defining achievements proved to be just out of reach. The consultant proposed instead that job-seekers took a more pragmatic and reasonable approach, doing their homework and making sure that they were pitching themselves at roles that the were capable of succeeding at.

That made me think about runners. How often do we hear about runners who have set themselves targets that sound, at least initially, to be completely unrealistic? With a head full of “Impossible is Nothing” and “Just Do It”, it can be tempting to over-reach. And the result? Well, it can be a very long trudge to the finish line as other runners hammer past or perhaps worse, a DNF.

Be realistic, have fun

Looking relaxed!

But then I read Charles van Commenee’s comments about the 18 year old sprinter Adam Gemili, who after finishing second at the UK Olympic trials last week, has decided he will run at both the world junior championships and at the Olympics. You can read more about his qualification here.

Gemili’s coach has been reported as saying that his young athlete is an emotional wreck due to the pressure of the two big events.

In stepped van Commenee and said something so wonderful and refreshing that I think every runner, at every level, needs to take heed:

I am not sending my 12-year-old niece to fight al-Qaeda. We are going to the Games. It’s fun. I didn’t see an emotional wreck, just a happy 18-year-old young man who’s very level-headed.

A lot of people in athletics make it sound as if they are living a hard life, as if they have to go to the coal mines in Azerbaijan every morning or maybe have to work for the Daily Mail every day. That’s what I call tough. We are doing sport, something fun. Sometimes athletes and coaches forget that.

Here, here, Mr. van Commenee. I think that many of us lose sight of the fact that the Olympic Games has the word ‘games’ in the title for a reason. One dictionary definition of games is “An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime” and I think we could all do with remembering that from time to time.

So next time you toe the line for a race, remember the words of the head coach of UK Athletics and try to smile. After all, you are doing this for fun…

 

Marathon Road and what we can learn from it

Tonight I stumbled upon a video called Marathon Road. Lasting just over ten minutes, this is a mini documentary, produced by Ideatap Studios, about a group of runners training for the US Olympic marathon trials race, this weekend in Houston.

The reality of elite marathoning

I think that the video is really well made – very nice shots, great choice of music and I like the style of interviews. But what really struck me was what the runners were saying about training and racing. There was no talk of the paces they are running at or the splits for their intervals. They just talked about the mental approach to the biggest event in their lives. They talk openly and honestly about how tough it is to get through training hard. How the mental effort of keeping consistent training for eight or ten or twelve weeks of a marathon training programme is mental training for the race itself. They talk about how hard it is to get through marathon training without becoming ill or injured. They talk about how difficult the race will be, requiring mental effort, decision making, commitment and the ability to deal with pain. And then they talk about hope…

The spirit of marathoning

The four men that feature in this film capture the essence of marathon running for me – they know the training is tough. They know the race will be tougher. They know that their main aim is to push themselves to the absolute limit and yet one can see that they believe they can do it. They know they will prevail. They are not going to waver for one minute in the face of the massive task they have set themselves.

That for me is the lesson for everyone here, whether you are a seasoned marathoner or a first timer. Whether you are aiming for Olympic qualification or a 6 hour finishing time. Be positive. Stay strong. Commit. Be the best runner you can be.

Marathon Road by Ideatap Studios