Mike Tymn article - Running Times '99

Note:  Print off and read when you have 15 minutes of quiet time.
       Reflect on what this guy is talking about.  hank


by Mike Tymn

To the person who has had no exposure to serious competitive distance running, the sport may appear very simple -- nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time. To the serious competitor, however, running is a complex activity involving a myriad of dynamic and interrelated mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. After more than 40 years of facing such challenges, I have categorized them into what I call the 25 Dynamic Ds. They begin with Desire and end with Divine.

1. Desire: It should go without saying that you must have the desire to be a distance runner if you are going to succeed. A child who is pushed into it by his parents, no matter how physically gifted, will likely not go far if there is no desire to match that of the parents. The fitness jogger is not going to achieve competitive success if she has no desire to beyond basic conditioning. Baseball great Rod Carew once commented that natural ability is not necessary to succeed in that sport. He said it was work, driven by desire. "It doesn't mean doing what you have to do," he explained. "It's doing what you want to do. You have to want to do that work." More so that can be said of distance running.

2. Define: If the desire is there, the next step is to define one's goals. You have to spell out exactly what you hope to achieve. It should be specific, not just a general goal, such as wanting to be a good runner or being more than a jogger. You need a "target" so that you will know if you have succeeded. "I think it has become clear of recent that people fail because they shoot at nothing," said former mile great Jim Ryun. "Even if you goal is only to get up at 6 in the morning, it gives you direction and a sense of self-esteem if you accomplish it. Lots of people get muddled and are aimless , don't know what they want to achieve."

3. Destiny: Now that you've defined your goal, ask yourself if you really have what it takes to achieve it. Maybe you're too big, too young, too old, too busy, too challenged with other things to carry it out. There's something to be said for the philosophy that you can do anything once you set your mind to it, but there's more to be said for being realistic. If you are big-boned and have the musculature of a Mr. America, it's a pretty sure bet that you'll never break 30 minutes at 10K or 2:20 in the marathon. Not everyone has the physical attributes to be a champion distance runner, although nearly everyone, except perhaps for those who have already mastered the sport, has what it takes to be a much better distance runner.

4. Determination: Desire or wanting it is one thing; being prepared to make all the necessary sacrifices is something else. You've got to be hungry for it Determination is burning desire. Desire alone may get you out on the track and through the first eight of your planned 16 quarter interval workout, but it's determination that pushes you through the last eight.. As English philosopher Thomas Carlyle once put it: "A man with a half-volition goes backwards and forwards, and makes no way on the smoothest road; a man with a whole volition advances on the roughest, and will reach his purpose, if there even be a little wisdom to it."

5. Dedication: You may be determined, but are you ready to dedicate yourself to pursuing the goal? This means making adjustments in your lifestyle and eliminating as many conflicts as possible. "There is more to training than merely allocating two hours a day to be spent at it," said 1960 and '64 Olympic gold medalist Peter Snell. "The whole life revolves around it. The conscientious athlete has to moderate his approach to everything." Perhaps your job or your family situation will not permit you the freedom or luxury of such dedication. If so, you might have to rethink your goals.

6. Dare: As in nearly every pursuit, there are going to be risks that must be assumed. There are, of course, physical risks involving injuries. You may have to risk telling your boss that you don't want to put in late hours on the job anymore. There may very well be risks that involve your spouse or significant other. You'll definitely have to take some chances and be prepared to come out on the losing end now and then. "I think that people who are unwilling to live on the fringe of their soul and their heart and their compassion and their passions really miss a lot of life," said Dr. Alex Ratelle, one of the all-time great masters runners.

7. Decision: This is the commitment step, the one in which you decide to go for it or to retreat and think about it. Said mile great Mary Liquori: "A commitment to serious training means that no matter what else you are in this world -- doctor, lawyer, Indian chief -- first of all you are a runner. If you are unable to live up to that standard, your running is not truly serious, and you can expect your race results to show it." The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi offered this: "I will demand a commitment to excellence and to victory, and that is what life is all about."

8. Design: Having a plan is one thing. Developing a program to carry out that plan is something else. You have to design a day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month program "I was honest with myself in estimating my potential. I made a written plan for reaching my goals and then I fit that plan between a 40-hour week and my family duties," said Derek Clayton, the first man to break both 2:10 and 2:09 in the marathon.

9. Division: OK, you've set your overall goals. Now you must establish intermediate goals so that you won't lose interest or momentum as you pursue the ultimate goals. If you know where you are now and where you want to be a year from now, then you should be able to approximate where you should be at points in between. Make each step, each intermediate goal, a milestone

10. Discipline: It's time now to begin exercising self-control in ways that correct, mold, or strengthen your habits. This may mean giving up harmful habits or acquiring beneficial habits. "If an athlete can't handle discipline, or take advice, he won't do well with us and I doubt very much he can be successful in athletics anywhere," said James "Jumbo" Elliott, the great Villanova track coach of 46 years.

11. Defy: You must be prepared to stand up to or challenge those who obstruct your way. There will be people who will tell you that your pursuit is not a worthy one, that running is for kids, that you are passing up material gain, that you are chasing a dream. You can defy them in silence or attempt to enlighten them, but the most important thing is that you see the value and remain firm in your conviction to pursue your goals.

12. Diligence: While assuming risks and standing up to the objections of others who get in your way are often necessary, wanton disregard for one's safety, health, or well-being is not. You must be able to walk a thin line between recklessness and superfluous caution. Try not to make divorce one of the Ds. Former tennis champion Chris Evert Lloyd offered this: "As a tennis player, you have to selfish, but you can't be selfish in a marriage. It's taken me a long time to figure out how to separate the two."

13. Development: All of those cerebral things that have preceded this step mean nothing if you don't do the work. This mean long, arduous training -- miles of running and hours of supplemental exercises. Depending on your goals, you're probably going to have to figure on nothing less than an hour a day and possibly up to four or even five hours a day for the champion runner. "There are no shortcuts. It's just day after day, month after month," said former Olympian and current masters standout Ruth Wyscoki.

14. Drive: You can't effectively develop in a plodding manner. You must pursue your goal with vigor, spirit, and intensity. This is where determination is manifested. Determination will get you through those last eight quarters in that interval workout, but it's drive that keeps you doing them just as fast as the first eight. It means not backing off, not surrendering to the fatigue that you're beginning to feel.

15. Depth: This involves going beyond the drive gear. It involves digging even deeper into your physical reserves, deeper into your soul and pushing yourself beyond some imaginary barrier.. This is the gear that allows you to kick it in, to lift those knees high in spite of the extreme oxygen debt and muscular fatigue you're feeling. In training, you might call upon this only on the last 100 meters of the final quarter. It's in this gear that you learn to continue on even when you are hurting.

16. DISTANCE: This is the quantity aspect to the training. It is the development of endurance that comes with hours or miles. Most champion distance runners have found that they need to run somewhere between 90 and 120 miles per week to develop the cardiovascular reserve necessary to maximize their potential. "The initial key to successful training is the amount of time you spend running each week and the distance you cover rather than the speed at which you run," says Tim Noakes, M.D., a running research scientist.

17. DASH: Quality is the other side of the training coin. Interval training on the track is almost always an integral part of a champion runner's regimen, but there's also fartlek or speed play on the roads or trails, hill repeats, and various types of cross training that can assist in developing speed to go with the endurance.

18. DISTRIBUTE: This means pacing, patience, and balance -- distributing your energy and effort in an economical and efficient manner. You must pace yourself in training just as you do in a race, being sure not to do too much too soon or conversely to not save it all up for the end of the training program. A gradual buildup phase and a tapering and rest phase are usually part of the successful runner's program. Balance has to do with the tradeoff between the quantity and quality training. Too much of one and not enough of the other does not make for optimum results.

19. DREAM: Somewhere along the line you have to begin visualizing yourself running in perfect rhythm and harmony. Olympic heptathlon champion Jackie Joyner Kersee put it this way: "I concentrate on visualizing specific movements. I visualize myself being successful, what I should be doing at the start of the race, going over the hurdles, coming off the hurdles, between the hurdles, and how I should run through the finish line." In training, the distance runner should visualize efficient running form and make the actual movements fit the imagery.

20. DIET: You don't run a high-powered engine on low-grade gasoline. A runner can get only so far on junk food or fast foods. Intelligent training calls for attention to the amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in the diet, as well as the vitamin and mineral content. A very important part of this "D" is proper hydration, something that is woefully neglected by many runners.

21. DWELL: This means concentration and focus, not allowing yourself to stray from the straight and narrow path to your goal. No matter how dedicated, the runner faces temptations along the way. When asked why he had been so dominant in his event, Edwin Moses, Olympic 400-meter hurdle gold medalist, replied: "I know what I'm doing. I concentrate on this as much as I would engineering or physics or whatever I'm doing." Golfing legend Sam Snead put it this way: "Concentration means different things to different people, but to me it means keeping yourself on an even keel no matter what happens. Don't get too high when things are going good; don't get too low when things go wrong."

22. DOCUMENT: Most successful runners keep a log or journal in which they record their workouts, noting distances, times, and how they feel before, during, and after a workout. Some go into more detail, plotting their progress on graphs or even positing charts on the wall. This documentation helps the runner on the next "D."

23. DISCERN: You've got to stop now and then and ask yourself what's working and what isn't. You have to effectively monitor your progress and be prepared to make changes in your program. Sometimes this means modifying your program, perhaps experimenting with something new, possibly revising goals or target dates. It might even mean retreating for a time and resting before tackling the next phase of the program with renewed vigor.

24. DELIGHT: "Drudgery" is not one of the Ds. Sure, it's going to be a lot of hard work with a certain amount of discomfort and inconvenience, but you've should be able to take pleasure in the pursuit. You must be able to savor those moments of complete release that follow a hard workout. You should reward yourself with little treats now and then.

25. DIVINE: Running is not a religion but it can be a spiritual undertaking. The well-conditioned runner should experience a oneness with the universe and with other humans. Certainly, the sport teaches perseverance and humility. But the underlying metaphysics of the sport -- the lessons often confined to the subconscious -- entails learning how to die, an experience that comes with pushing our limits. The well-conditioned runner who reflects on those moments of extreme exhaustion -- those final yards -- will no doubt recall the release and ecstasy that follow and perhaps see an analogy with real-life death.

There are two more Ds: Don't procrastinate. Do it now. 2,386 words