Concern Yourself With Running Well
Stewart Togher, famed Scottish throws coach who had a storied 15-year tenure at University of Oregon from 1983 to 1997, died recently at age 80.
He was a coaches' coach, who knew his craft inside and out and coupled his sharp technical acumen with sage insight.
In an article from TrackTown USA memorializing Togher, his star pupil, American hammer thrower Lane Deal fondly recalled Togher’s reaction the first time he threw over 80 meters, a long-stated goal and a measuring stick of world-class talent. It was a piece of wisdom he has never forgotten.
“After I threw 80 meters for the first time, (Stewart) told me, ‘OK, now it’s time to throw well. Stop worrying about throwing far, now throw well’” Deal said.
My reaction when reading this was one word — YES!
Togher reminds us of what really matters: instead of worrying about the outcome/result, concern yourself solely with doing your chosen craft well. He wisely knew that this was the quickest path to the top.
For the runner, the takeaway is simple yet profound — if you concern yourself with running as well as you can, the results on race day won't disappoint.
We can control our effort given and the degree of proficiency which we execute, but out of our control is what the clock will say on race day (despite what we'd like to think). In this context, the time doesn't matter. It distracts rather than aids the athlete.
Time and place are measures, but not the sole measures to base our judgement upon. As Togher advises, I've come invest more stock in the quality and integrity of an athlete's competitive effort relative to them, not the field. Ironically, by choosing to stop worrying about running "fast" (whatever that means) and instead run well, a favorable result will more likely occur. It seems counterintuitive, and it is, but so are most potent truths regarding effective conduct.
I stopped doing "goal setting sessions" with athletes years ago. They are well-intending activities, but I think fruitless. For an athlete to decide out of the blue that this year "I want to win a championship title", or "break 4 minutes in the mile," or "run sub-70 for the half marathon" etc. is automatically setting one up for failure and frustration. Success doesn't work like that. The most successful athletes I've worked with are most concerned about racing to the maximum of their personal capacity. That is what counts. That is the secret to winning and sustained winning.
So instead of worrying if reps are fast enough in practice or if enough miles are being logged each week, elect a new narrative, one where the sole concern is about running as well as you possibly can.
Practice running well every day. On the long run. During a workout. Even on the AM shakeout jog. Run well over and over and over again. Make it permanent. So that by race day, running well becomes racing well.
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm