Friday, September 23, 2011

Surging and Herb Elliott

Ah, to be in the kind of condition where you are able to throw in periodic surges during the course of a race. If you haven't read the post from July 28th entitled, Ticking Golden Moments by Roger Bannister,I would encourage you to take a moment and read it. Bannister gives an excellent account of Elliott's tremendous 20 yard victory in the1500 meter race at the 1960 Olympics. A race, where despite Elliott's margin of victory,the first six runners in that race broke the existing Olympic record. From 1896 till 2000, only two runners had faster Olympic 1500 times than his. One of those times by the way was just a little over a half second faster. One of the keys to Elliott's victory was his surging tactics. His first lap time for that race was :58.5,then :59:5, then 56:0, plus :41.6 for the last 300 meters. The following is excerpted from the 1963 edition of Modern Track and Field by J. Kenneth Doherty: "The crux of the race lies there. Elliott was third at the half, running easily. But then, quite unexpectedly,he put all his energy into one tactic. The pace had been averaging :14.7 for each 100 meters. Now he spurted to run the next 100 meters in :13.2,the third lap in :56.0,and one more 100 meters in :13.6. The competition then collapsed behind him.Elliott slowed to :14.4 in the last 100 meters." Needless to say, much preparation went into Herb's training that made it possible for him to employ the surging tactics that he used at the Rome Olympics. We, who desire to race well, should try to develop this technique during the course of our training. What follows are a few quotes from Herb that I'm sure will be a help in our effort: "Percy urged the advisability of impressing an instinct for surging upon my subconscious in the belief that when I became tired during a race I'd react automatically by exerting more effort and making a burst. The change of pace would upset the competition while at the same time allowing me to feel that I held the initiative." The mindset he had in working on this technique was described by Elliott in the following: "Most athletes imagine themselves at the end of their tether before they're even seventy-five percent exhausted. I was so determined to avoid this pitfall that if at any time I thought I was surrendering too soon to superficial pain I'd deliberately try to hurt myself more." Some running and racing wisdom from one of the greatest of all-time.

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