Training the Mind
From Lore of Running, by Tim Noakes
[Jack Lovelock 1984]
[Paavo Nurmi 1968]
[Derek Ibbotson 1960]
[Kenneth Doherty 1964]
[Marti Liquori & John Parker 1980]
[Derek Clayton 1980]
IMPORTANCE OF THE MIND IN SPORT
Despite all I have written about preparing the body for running, I suspect that the preparation of the mind is the more important factor determining running success.
The words are, of course, those of Roger Bannister, the man who as a medical student, training as little as 1 hour a day during his lunch hour, was the first to run the mile in under 4 minutes.
Latterly, it has become popular to conclude that Bannister's knowledge of medicine and of exercise physiology explained why he and not other, possibly more gifted, runners like Arne Anderson, Gunder Haegg, Wes Santee or John Landy had been the first to break that mystical 4-minute barrier. This is an assumption that we have, to our detriment, been making far too long.
Bannister himself would never have considered that his scientific knowledge gave him any sort of advantage. He saw that his medical training really taught him to observe and understand himself better:
What, then, was Bannister's secret? I think success came first to him because he, better than anyone, perceived that the battle for the 4-minute mile was fought in the mind, not in the body. Gunder Haegg, the man who in 1945 came within 1.3 seconds of breaking the 4-minute mile, wrote this about 1 month before Bannister's great race:
Bannister's genius told him what was most important - the conditioning of the mind until it would "release in 4 short minutes the energy I usually spend in half an hour's training".
In his preparation Bannister reduced the race to its simplest common denominator - 400m in 60 seconds or multiples thereof. He trained until running 60 seconds a lap, 24km/hr, became automatic.
And when he achieved that great objective at Oxford's Iffley Road track on May 6 1954, Bannister's unique experience allowed him to write one of the most significant paragraphs in the running literature:
That few runners or their coaches have ever grasped the implications of what Roger Bannister said is shown by an almost total dearth of material about the mental side of training and competition. To correct this, we will compare Roger Bannister's intuitive approach to mental preparation for racing with the approaches suggested in other modern books.
To be continued!
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