Reflections On Running #3: How hard are you trying?

As Alistair Brownlee proved in Rio this week, the man most prepared to suffer is the man who wins the medals. So how hard are you really trying?

Alistair Brownlee

We all think we’re giving 100% in races. But watching Alistair Brownlee this week, faced contorted in late-race agony, I couldn’t help but ask myself: how hard am I really trying?

In Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It? – a brilliant book with a toe-curlingly bad title – he writes about our “unreachable physical limit”.

That’s not to say we are all super-athletes of unlimited potential. Quite the opposite: we are all wimps unwilling to break free from our mind-forged manacles. It is not the body that slows us down, but the brain.

The bravest athletes – the Prefontaines, Radcliffes and Brownlees – get closer to their physical limit than most.

The rest of us? My guess is that we rarely realise more than 80% of our physical potential. Yet we can, with training and iron-willed determination, walk a little further along those hot coals. Perhaps not as far as Alistair Brownlee, but further than we’ve ever gone before.

So next time you find yourself in a race, telling yourself the same old lie that you’re trying your hardest, picture Alistair Brownlee grimacing his way into the history books. Then ask yourself honestly: can I give more? The answer is, inevitably, ‘yes’.

Rick Pearson

Written by Rick Pearson | 238 articles | View profile

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