Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ron Clarke on Running and Racing

All of us know about Ron Clarke right? I have posted about him before but as a refresher I will mention a few career highlights: In a period from 1963-1968 he set 21 world records,indoors and out,at distances ranging from two miles to the one-hour run. This is a quote from Brian Lenton's Interviews book, "Ron's 10,000 meter world record(27:39) in Oslo 1965 without a pacemaker and on cinders(sometimes in lanes 2 and 3 because of the condition of the track) is still regarded as one of the greatest athletic performances of all time. No one else in the world bettered 28 minutes until 1971." I could go on but you can see that Ron could really race. He authored many books and worked at RW for a while in the 70's. When he speaks, all runners should listen. The following is from a lengthy interview he did for Brian Lenton: "Athletics is a hobby in which I'm free to do anything at any time. A coach would want me to adhere to a rigid schedule and to follow his advice. I like to please myself how and when I train so that my hobby doesn't intrude on my business career. And it really is a hobby; a personal recreation rather than an international project.One doesn't run for the world,but for oneself." That's part of the beauty of the sport,participation and enjoyment only requires one runner. On racing: "Sitting is the easy way to win races.Athletes get the glory from it. A race as a spectacle deteriorates because everyone wants to win it the easy way. If someone runs a 49 second last lap and wins a 4:20 mile,why should he be praised?" How true! For us racing fans,is there anything more disappointing than watching a big race where all the competitors sit and then take off with less than a lap to go? On being a full-time runner: "I had to rearrange job schedules to fit in the training. Some of the Australian distance runners who have taken up to a year off to prepare for the Olympics must be bored to death. I cannot understand it. One can spend too much time sitting around thinking about running." Again,so much for the frequent complaint from some quarters that say elite runners must be subsidized in order to excel. On running,racing and self-evaluation: "Running is fitness,as everyone knows, and the fitter you are the faster you run. But the other test of fitness is recovery and the fitter you are the faster you recover from any effort. If you're running flat out and you record a poor time you shouldn't get out and try repeating it. Rather you should recover and find out what you're doing wrong." An often forgotten point,the fitter we are the better is our recovery from hard runs and races. On elite runners not racing that often: "What I don't like about a lot of runners is that they don't race as often as they should. I'd like to see distance runners be a little less worried about their so-called reputation." Amen to that Ron!


  1. Ron Clarke was my first "favorite runner". Before I got to High School, back in the 60s when he ran the local papers would publish stories from the Associated Press. Great stuff for a young sports fan who was interested in Track.

    I really enjoy your blog. Thank you.

  2. I know exactly what you mean--reading about Ron's races in the 60's and watching some of his runs on The Wide World of Sports got me psyched about running and track--If only we had someone like him around today to inspire others.Also, check out how many races he ran,it was an incredible amount.His winning and placing percentage was something else.