Thursday, March 09, 2006

ESPN.com - OLY - FEATURE-Athletics-Tadesse benefits from better fit: "Tadesse started his sporting career in cycling but fell out with his team mates in late 2001 and switched to running instead.

In just a few months, Tadesse jumped from winning races at school to coming 30th at the 2002 world championships in Dublin, despite the shoe handicap.

'I was given some running shoes but they were the wrong size,' he said of the 12-km race in which he came 30th with barely any training against athletes from all over the world.


Tadesse has since won Eritrea's first Olympic medal, a bronze in the 10,000m at the Athens 2004 Games, and second place in the 2005 world cross-country championships in France."

Interesting. I wonder whether he uses the Garmin 301 or 305, if he wears orthotics with his shoes, his heart rate monitor shows him how many calories he has burned or if he got as far as he did because of a fuel belt.

Articles such as these won't come as a shock to the many hacks and sophists who debate, quite seriously, such irrelevant tripe and believe that training more than four days a week puts them at risk of overtraining for 42-kilometre footraces. After all, Tadesse is one of the fastest and most unheralded runners in the world. He is one of the best runners in the world, endowed, truly so, with tremendous genetic potential (59:05 half marathon as well). If Tadesse managed to run close to 27 minutes for 10,000 metres largely on the strength of training as a cyclist and running long distances to and from school, our amateur physiologists will tell you that it is because he is a demigod of sorts. After all, studies prove that there is no correlation between the ability to run long distances and how hard one trains to run long distances.

In fact, other studies show that one can maximize ability as a distance runner by running sparingly for three days a week and working real, real hard at the gym. Other studies show that students who study for more than one hour more than four times a week risk burning out and pushing some other, like, real, totally useful stuff out of their brains, basically, and stuff. What compels otherwise normal adults to conclude that working three days at anything at all, physical or otherwise, other than maybe binging on crack cocaine or suicide bombing, is as good as working five or six days (or twelve times a week) is likely the same thing that keeps the celebrity page prominently featured in Metro. Some, of course, have their dreams of becoming a physiological Galileo, but it does not take a dozen peer-reviewed studies to point out that we get better at what we do very often. A Starcraft addict could tell you that. Only in the interest of being complete in my analysis will I note that there is a point at which one can train so much as to harm performance, but this limit is hardly approached by Johnny Messageboard and his 3:30 marathon. Any claims to the contrary are about as serious as a five-year old donning a sportcoat and reading the newspaper upside down.

You see, the very unprofitable truth is that running fast is actually quite a simple thing to do, though simplicity and ease are not attributes that should be conflated. Licking your own elbow and traveling to the South Pole are both very hard to do, though the latter is significantly more complex. Running fast has a lot to do with working hard at running, and working hard at running has a lot to do with doing a lot of running. I'm not sure why that's so hard to understand.

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