Monday, May 17, 2010

Hardship and Poverty

Hardship and Poverty seem like they are often in the background of great distance runners. Somewhere I have a printout of a training manual authored by Gordon Pirie. As I recall, his father was a race promoter. I think he described a lot of the runners as young Welsh men who ran to escape the mines. I was reading about Joseph Ebuya who won the world cross country championships. He has a fascinating story. Part of it is that his family is nomadic goat herders. His family's goats were stolen by bandits, forcing them to move closer to the city where he survived by making charcoal. He was discovered when he could keep up with a group of professionals running in long pants and barefoot. Apparently just a few years ago, Tsegaye Kebede - whose last 3 marathons have been 2:05:20, 2:05:18 and 2:05:19 - was gathering firewood to survive, eating one meal per day. I was just reading that even Usain Bolt's home did not have running water when he was growing up. His strength is attributed to the fact that he had to carry water to his house. Even Greg McMillan - coach of McMillan Elite - talks about how suffering is a component of one's training.
Is suffering in of itself important, something like what Gary Cantrell calls "meaningless suffering without a point?" I don't think so, otherwise Cambodian survivors of Pol Pot would dominate endurance sports. My wife who is such a survivor is a hard worker and very strong-minded but does not have an athletic orientation. So there are some other factors. Greg McMillan talks about logging mileage consistently - year after year. We can see that in Haile Gebrselassie, running 10 km to school and another 10 km home for 10 years. I also recall reading that Shadrack Biwott would run 5 km to school, 5 km home for lunch, 5 km back to school, then 5 km back home every day. Even Ed Whitlock runs very consistently -about 20 miles per day. So I think the idea is to make it normal to run consistently every day as you would if you did it of necessity.
So my current plans are to stick to a plan of gradual increase in mileage, hopefully getting to a certain goal. But if I start having problems prior to that goal, I'll just back off and slow down progression of mileage at a maintainable level.

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