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…