Within the past two weeks, the running community has had an extreme low point and an extreme high point. Have you ever heard the expression guilty by association? Watching this year's Track & Field World championship, that phrase hung over a few of the athletes at the games. With the ruling against Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar over doping violations, this scandal put a black cloud over some of the athletes that have known him as coach. I am not sure that we will ever know the whole truth of what happened, but it seems one person and even a company's obsession with success clouded their morals.
Still, unfortunate for some athletes, there will always be that question of did they know and did they even cross the line. It reminded me that one should be careful who they associate with. They all will have some influence on you whether you realize it or not.
Then this past weekend, Eliud Kipchoge ran the first marathon in under two hours. Now granted this was something that he and his team(runners, Nike, INEOS) all set up to achieve. On the surface seemed like an admirable feat to conquer, the two hour barrier. When I read into it it seemed to lose the luster I first thought. The course they had chosen was a flat, straight, 6 mile loop that was close to sea level. There were parts of the road that had marks directing the fastest possible route. Next take into account there were various pacers running in a V formation in front of him for most of the course. Then there was a laser line projected on the road from a lead car keeping them on pace. Lastly we can look at a specially constructed shoe by Nike(not yet available to the public) that has multiple layers of Carbon fiber in the base, basically acting almost like a spring. Despite all of this, when he crossed the line in 1:59.40, some hailed this as the moon landing of our generation. Would someone running a world record for 200m downhill in a straight line get as much press? There were some that questioned the legitimacy when Roger Banister ran the first sub four minute mile since he did it in a race in which he had pacers. A glorified time trial. Now at the time they thought the human body could not withstand what it took to run under four minutes. Some thought the human heart wasn't capable of it, yet he did it in 1954 and a mere 10 years later the first high school athlete did.(Jim Ryun)
Now don't get me wrong, to do what Kipchoge did is certainly remarkable. When there are certain barrier that seem humanly impossible to achieve, the quest to break them goes back to the root of making a dream reality.
Now the question that needs to be asked is what do both of these examples have in common? In each case you had individuals that wanted to achieve success. Some willing to do it illegally, some willing to bend the rules as much as they could to still see it as being legitimate. Will Kipchoge run sub two hours in an actual marathon against competitors? Who knows. Will the shoes that he was wearing eventually be deemed illegal? Will Salazar eventually continue to coach again? You can certainly look at both of these and say, what were their influences and who are they influencing.
The same can be said about me as a coach and you as an athlete. I have had some great influences in my life. First and foremost was my dad. Not an athlete, but someone that instilled work ethic in me at a very young age. He taught me how to see projects through from the design stages all the way to completion. He taught me how to problem solve when fixing cars or even building sheds in the back yard. It is those things that carry on in the way I coach. Speaking of coaching, I have had some great coaches over the years. Coach Schramm, my high school coach was the first one to get me to seriously consider myself an athlete. Coach Tolsma was the one that made me want to go into coaching. So many of the things I do were traits that I picked up while being a grad assistant coach at Liberty University under his direction. I can look at the teammates that I had in high school as well as in college. At a young age I was blessed to be surrounded with like minded guys that wanted to achieve things that were bigger than we were. In some cases they kept me out of trouble. In college I surrounded myself with individuals that were far better than I was. This took me to new heights athletically that I never even thought was possible.
So when you look at yourself as an athlete, who are your influences and who are you influencing? This is a question that you should constantly be reflecting upon and the choices you make in regards to this will undoubtedly greatly impact your success.