Saturday, 20 August 2011

James Cracknell and the Marathon des Sables

Yesterday I read an article about James Cracknell and the Marathon des Sables.  He was the fastest Brit ever, and yet he does not possess anything near to the classic running physique.  Tipping the kilos at 90kg he was a good 25kg heavier than most of the top runners.

Apparently after each stage his eyes would be rolling in his head, and after one stage he had to go to the medics tent and they wanted to put a drip in him because he couldn't keep down any fluids.  Just when they were about to put the drip in, he asked them what time penalty that would incur him, and when they told him 2 hours he told them not to do it.  They said they would forgo the drip as long as he could start keeping down fluids within the next 30 minutes, and that he did.

The most amazing thing is not how good a runner was, but firstly his recovery rate and secondly his willpower.  On the issue of recovery, apparently less than an hour after almost being forced to have a drip put into him he was socialising with his tentmates again.  Then comes the willpower.  Most of us just simply are not willing to push ourselves that hard, and then there are some that will but they don't know at all when to stop.  It seems like James Cracknell pushes himself right to the edge but stops just short of seriously overdoing it (just), somehow managing to keep going.

Yesterday was a sweltering day here in Zurich.  Despite this, I thought it would be a good chance to go for a run from work back home with my backpack.  For a lot of people just being in the sun was too much, and the majority were hiding in the shade.  As I was running, and sweating, and feeling the full heat of the sun I remembered what I read about James Cracknell, and instead of slowing down I actually pushed harder.  I may not have the same mental toughness as him, but faced with slowing down or speeding up in the face of tiredness I chose the latter.

When I arrived at the Letten baths to meet with Anny and her cousin I was completely cream crackered at first.  But after sitting down for half an hour I was starting to feel normal again.  I will do well to remember what makes James do so well whenever I am starting to lag in training, and especially during the race itself.

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