We all love greatness. We love seeing our fellow athletes do something amazing. I have been brought to tears by the simple act of another person running milliseconds faster in an event to break a world record. With the Olympics coming closer this summer in Rio and the marathon trials in less than a month, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am so attracted to world record performances.
It’s no shock that the news surrounding track and field has been grim at best. Just hearing about the use of performance enhancing drugs makes me shudder. Why would someone who works so hard, has such an honorable work ethic, do something so dirty?
A better question might be, why wouldn’t they?
Whenever I see a great performance that leaves me speechless, I act surprised when I find out what it took to get there. I am shocked that the 3:44 milers took PEDs or that Paula Radcliffe might have used something to make her run 2:15. I don’t want to believe it. I want to believe in clean sport and that records stand because that person was amazing.
But really, with what athletes do, all the sacrifices they make that don’t surprise me, should I really be all that surprised when I hear of doping or cheating?
Since deciding to take my running more seriously, it has become my life even more. I structure my life around my goals. Around my runs. Everything else is secondary. To someone who does not run or has not had the limited success I’ve had, what I do to be as best a runner I can, in their mind, may seem like the equivalent of what doping is to me concerning elites.
I’ve hired a coach. I eat to perform well. I make sleep a priority. I do everything I can to maximize my training.
Just like the elites.
The difference, my income, sponsorships and well being does not rest on breaking a record or winning a race. Sure, I’ve thought about it. How cool it would be to get endorsed to run. How nice it must feel not to worry about two jobs, my apartment and car payments in addition to training and eating. Many times I think that being a professional athlete would mean I’ve made it.
But what I don’t think about too often is what comes with it. I only get paid if I win. What goes into winning? On point nutrition, recovery and training. So much pressure. Hit the key sessions. Active recovery or complete rest. Gluten free pasta? Don’t forget to foam roll. Does this stuff even work or is it psychological?
Just that small list gives me anxiety. Wouldn’t it be easier to take a bit of a short cut? How tempting would it be to just pop a pill and get the same edge that months of perfect training could give?
Obviously I am overstating the benefit if PEDs and understating training, but you get my drift right? These athletes train so hard and only the top ten, if that get paid. Honestly after years of so much hard work, a pill to give me just the edge I need to be able to support myself for the next year sounds really good.
It is my thought that we need to change the way we appreciate greatness. I think that only by recognizing hard work, overcoming adversity and challenges, rather than just winning is a way to discourage the use of PEDs, cheating or other shady behavior that is rampant in athletics. By only highlighting the winners and record breakers we are encouraging a win at all cost behavior that now has us in a tailspin of drug tests and disbelief in the athletes we hold so high.
It may take a while, but I encourage you, with spring racing and the Olympics right around the corner, to appreciate all the performances you see because each took seriously hard work. That in itself is what greatness is all about.
What is the greatest thing you’ve read or seen in the past month?
What do you like more, hard work or an incredible performance?