Wednesday, January 19, 2005

On the beach

These are some excerpts from an interview with Herb Elliott about his coach Percy Cerutty. Although Cerutty was thought of as eccentric, he was obviously mentally stimulating and gave Elliott an appreciation of the wider nature of the sport and a sense of spirit.

It is interesting that Herb Elliott did not think he would have done as well if he had been coached by Cerutty's great rival Franz Stempfl (the man who coached Roger Bannister) because he thought Stempfl's more scientific approach was just a matter of running intervals round and round a track - something that contained no beauty.

Training the sand dunes at Portsea

"...he seemed to be more interested in using your sport to develop you into a better human being, than he did in using your sport to become a world champion. I mean he somehow or other put your sport into a much larger context than just running around in circles faster than anybody else...

Underneath it all there was a sort of sound philosophy based on 'Let's improve ourselves as human beings, let's become more compassionate, let's become bigger, let's become stronger, let's become nicer people...

And he showed me a way that I could be a better person, which was to use the skill that I had which was running, and provided that, and this is where I asked him the question. I said, 'Well how do I become a better person by running round in circles?' And he said, 'You only ever grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone.' And so I guess I went into all of my training and my approach to training was that you've got to be outside your comfort zone, so I was an intense, high quality trainer, and there was a lot of pain in my training sessions as a consequence of that. But I think it was one of the reasons why I just never got beaten, because every training session, four out of six, were nominated as quality, and I was used to sort of doing the hard yards at quality...

I mean running, in fact pretty well anything we do in life, has a spiritual component to it, and so I always found, and probably most people find, that they run better and easier in beautiful surroundings. And of course Portsea, with the magnificent cliffs, the reefs, the pounding surf, the beach, the tracks through the tea -tree, was just a wonderful environment to run in. And it was spiritually uplifting. So when you got down there you just sniffed in the salt air and you felt your chest expand and you could feel your muscles in your legs tingle. It just made you want to run..."

Reason No. 7 for running: It has a spiritual component

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