What It Takes To Win The World XC Championships
In 1980 Craig Virgin won the World Cross Country Championships stunningly. It was labeled a "unique American vicotry," and thankfully the final 800m of the race was recorded on film.
You can watch it here. It is a riveting 3 minutes of action.
Virgin was a total badass. He repeated as the World XC Champion in 1981. He also broke Prefontaine's American record in the 10,000m in 1979, running 27:39, then bettering the mark to 27:29 in 1980, which was #2 in history at the time. These are just a sampling of a career littered with many remarkable accomplishments.
There is a little-known book, How Road Racers Train, which profiles the training and running philosophy of prominent late 70s American road racers, Virgin included. It was published in 1979, a year before his World XC Championships victory. And this was my first introduction to him.
The profile on Virgin lends several clues on what it takes to become a world champion. Elements of his approach echo that of today's best runners. Although, unlike many current pros, Craig worked 30 - 50 hours a week as a Relations Consultant.
Below are direct quotes from his profile.
On work ethic:
"Running is work to me most of the time. Perhaps every two weeks I have a really fun workout; the rest of the time, it's hard work."
"Virgin trains twice a day, every day."
On any "unique" training techniques:
"I think the only major thing that I have always stressed is quality over quantity."
On non-running work:
"Craig works out with weights 2-3 per week for 8-9 months."
On what motivated him:
"Mainly, I run to race against myself, push myself to my limits, and secondly, to see how I stack up against other runners. I run for self-satisfaction, and I like the recognition that comes from winning. I feel myself to be as much a performer as an athlete. I like to perform well, and be in the spotlight when racing."
On the key to his training:
"The recovery day is fully as important as the hard workout days."
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm