Having read a lot of this thread, I have a few thoughts:
- the guys who are achieving the sub 2:20 times now are all the more remarkable because they have managed - within their own individual ability - to defy the trend towards lesser standards, whatever its causes.
- these runners are also very good. In fact they're extremely good. There's just less of them around.
- Its important to recognise that these runners are not to blame if they are not surrounded by, or beaten by, other British runners.
- until I run 2:12, I will certainly not sit here and tell our top runners that they are not working hard enough.
- I suspect the reduced strength and depth in Britain is mirrored in much of the Western world. We often talk about it like its a unique British problem.
- Alex is just a guy doing what he does; making a documentary. I don't care how fast he does or doesn't run, because his running is irrelevant. He's a film maker. I hope he makes a good film. I also hope it makes people feel good: both the people it gets off the couch, and the top British athletes they should look up to.
- Finally, I would like to see new medals introduced at the London marathon to underline the importance of training and racing for time. So, for example, a sub 2:20, sub 2:40, sub 3:10 sub 4:00 and sub 5:00. A good example is the Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa. Its not just about finishing, its also about what colour medal you get for different times (under 6 hours, 7:30, 9, 11 and 12). The cut-offs for each are hugely exciting and people train and race to achieve different medals, whether elites chasing 6 hours or the guys in the pack dreaming of getting under 11 hours for a bronze.
Thats is a good idea, I used to do a 10 mile race, where the first X number got a gold medal, the next X got a silver , the next got a bronze and the rest got a T Shirt or a mug or something.
It's all part of society in general today. The laziness starts in many cases at a young age.
My kids primary school have a walk to school week. They get a certificate if they walk to school for all 5 days !
We live approx 400m away from it , yet one of our neighbours regularly runs their kids up in the morning ! The school carpark and surrounding streets are always very busy with kids being picked up and dropped off .
When the school has a concert on, very often its Gym Time is the activity that's dropped .
I agree with what popsider posted earlier today, about their being alot more active kids a generation ago. When we were kids growing up in the 70s and 80s (I'm 40) ,we went outside to try and emulate our footballing heroes. Todays kids can 'be' their heroes on their playstations in their rooms.
There's an interesting article in this weeks AW by Will Cockerill about his and Alex's trip to Ethiopia. One underlying theme is how keen aspiring runners are to run abroad - all about the relative standards of livng between the West and the Third World,
I didn't mean to imply that schools were to blame for lack of young sportsmen/women but its the starting point, springboard if you like. When you are in a more structured learning environment thats where you pick up all your basics and build on them. Kids will always play footy down the rec and go out on their bikes after school etc. but my personal view is that sport/games/PE is not as highly regarded as it once was within school and thats a real shame. And, as for driving kids to school when they live less than half a mile away - crazy!
Back to the original topic of debate that I've drifted away from; don't feel 'slightly insulted' at all. Am kinda with Horizon Hopper on this one. The documentary will highlight many issues and as this thread already shows, will spark debate. Good luck to Alex; definitely started something here!
"In no other sport would a beginnner of Alex's age be taken seriously if they claimed that,within 2 years,they would reach international elite level."
There are plenty of sports other than running where inexperienced people get to Olympic standard in very short timescales. Rebecca Romero just became world cycling pursuit champion having taken it up just 2 years ago. If you include daft sports like Skeleton Bob the list gets longer. Even skillful sports like fencing, the French have a production-line medal system which allows people in 3 - 5 years to get to standard.
I'm hugely impressed with Alex's efforts; we're getting to the point where treating a marathon as a competitive sport is rather frowned-on and we need to get away from that.
Would that be the same Rebecca Romero who was a 2004 Olympic silver medallist at rowing and also World Champion (2005) at rowing? SHe may have "only" taken up cycling two years ago but she was an elite-level / Olympic medallist before she started. She was "talent spotted" and then underwent testing by British Cycling (the national federation) before they decided to put money and resources behind her in her bid to switch sports.
I'd hardly call her "inexperienced" and to suggest you can take up cycling and become World Champion in 2 years is as profane as saying Joe Bloggs could run sub 2h20m 2 years after they took up running...
All the same, she's now a world champion at a sport that she took up 2 years ago. Not sure what your point is.
There are historically plenty of Olympic rowers around with 3 - 4 years experience in the sport too. And as I say, lots of countries have programs to create Olympic competitors in similar timescales for all sorts of sports.
There are plenty of sports other than running where inexperienced people get to Olympic standard in very short timescales. Rebecca Romero just became world cycling pursuit champion having taken it up just 2 years ago
You implied that she was inexperienced and has become a World Champion in 2 years. I'm pointing out she wasn't inexperienced and was a World Champion at rowing as recently as 2005. It's not like she was "inexperienced" as British Cycling don't just give out help willy-nilly. She was tested and found to be an elite-level athlete.Similarly, Jamie Staff was a BMX World Champion in the 1990's and turned to track cycling once he was tested by the British Cycling system. He has since become a World Champion at the Keirin and Team Sprint and picked up Olympic medals
She had never done track cycling before. That's "inexperienced" by pretty much any definition. Various posts in the thread have claimed that in other sports it would be preposterous to attempt to achieve Olympic standard in 2 years; in fact, similar achievements actually happen quite often.
I keep going back to Paul Evans who off no specific training oher than pub football went from running a debut road 10k to taking part in the tour of britain (does anyone else remember that) and a world class runner winning several stages.
I'm sure there will be other instances where Athletes have come from no where to win or qualify against the odds.
- I would get hold of the AW article as you should remember that Alex is a film maker and has taken on a project to make a film charting the decline of Britain's male distance runners. A sort of Quote from Richard Nerurkar - when he said in this article that he sometimes goes to a valley in Ethiopia wher ehe sees large groups of athletes gathered to train - and as they set off he thinhs 'the British have no chance'
If our top distance runners are threatened by this film, then so be it, they don't have to be, they are doing their best, when even runners of the calibre of Craig Mottram are left in the wake of the Africans then there is nothing for them to be ashamed of.
That Britain can compete against the best is beyond dispute - go to You Tube and search for Steve Ovett and Henry Rono, also Tim Hutchins fine second to John Ngugi at the world cross in (I think 1989) - I appreciate that perhaps the strength was not quite the same - but the point is proved that good british/european runners can compete.
I''m hugely impressed with Alex's efforts; we're getting to the point where treating a marathon as a competitive sport is rather frowned-on and we need to get away from that.
I really do believe this - when you get posts on these pages asking where is the best point on the marathon course to meet my friend/wife/husband so we can run together - I know that everyone is entitled to run, but Chris Brashers dream of increasing the standard of British distance running has been long forgotten.
But well done to the junior woman yesterday and also to Liz Yelling who was top European fnisher in any race.
Liz Yelling wasn't top European finisher in any race incidentally. She wasn't even top European finisher in her own race. Top European born perhaps, but I'm sure as hell not going to deny someone their right to citizenship of a country because I'm annoyed that British and European runners aren't doing better.
European could be used to denote citizenship - but it could also properly be used to mean continent of birth (or even racial background as in African American) which is what I assume G3 is doing. If I took Kenyan citizenship and gave up UK citizenship I could still accurately be described as European.
Tmap - You are being extremely naive if you think there's no difference between someone who hasn't done any competitive sport in a long time and are in bad/poor shape thinking they can take up a sport and become a world champion and a world champion in a serious athletic sport being specifically identified as being suitable to transfer over to another sport achieving success there.
If you can find where I said that I'll give you £100.
good point popsider - darn it!
I read the Athletics Weekly account by Will Cockerell too - I do enjoy his writing; picked up his "50 greatest marathons of all time" at the FLM expo a couple of years ago. Interesting stuff.
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