Is Over Racing A Misconception?
Often, over racing is cited as something against which to safeguard athletes.
At the high school level, frustration fills coaches from an overpacked dual meet and invite schedule.
At the collegiate level, there is displeasure with the regional qualification system, the deluge of relay meets and time trial invites.
And in the professional ranks, pros regularly no-show at Diamond League meets, sometimes citing too dense a world-class competitive calendar.
Every level has its reason to shy away from the starting line. However, it may be worth reconsidering that over racing isn't the issue, in fact, it is negligent preparation.
These days, I am not sure an athlete can over race unless they are under prepared.
For example, in 2017, Mexican miler Daniel Herrera started 29 races on the track/road and finished nearly all of them, save a few he was employed as the rabbit. He raced for six straight months, April through October: an average of 4.83 starts per month. He set a national record in the 1 Mile in 3:56 (his first time breaking 4 minutes) in early June, then broke 4 minutes for the mile on the track 30 days later in July, and then again roughly another 30 days later in August.
By his last race in October, he still had a zest and excitement for competition. He only ended his season because the middle distance racing opportunities dried up.
I would argue he did not over race, but he was well prepared.
Many others before Daniel successfully engaged in a high frequency of racing at the height of their careers. Multi-time world record holder and the first man to break 28:00 for the 10K, Aussie Ron Clarke, was famously prolific, regularly running 2 - 3 races a week. Steve Prefontaine contested 20+ races most outdoor seasons, racing the entire NCAA calendar in the spring and then the European circuit in the summer. Steve Scott ran 137 sub-4 miles in his career with three outdoor sub-3:50 clockings for 1 mile in a one year period. And there are many more examples, suggesting such phenomena of frequency may be more of a norm than an exception.
So the next time someone complains about an over racing epidemic in track & field it may be worth considering if, in fact, they are really bemoaning a lack of preparedness.
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm