Following on from last weeks highly successful guest editorial from Colin, we bring you the follow up;
“Why are there so few of those guys?”
The dearth of younger runners has been going on for years. As far back as 1980 I noted that running was becoming an older man’s sport. The question is difficult to answer in that the answer lies outside the sport.
I suppose one factor is the fading of the post-war austerity. More ‘glamorous’ sports came into focus – Karate and so on. There, there’s a kudos in just being part of the setup – Dan levels being independent of peers. There’s this concept of having everything on the plate. We might note the change in professional sport. No longer do we have controlled wages, with money being ploughed back into the grass roots and sportsmen achieving celebrity status.
Then there’s the professionalising of running. Their trust funds enable them to be full time athletes. They no longer mix with the rank and file but spend time in training camps with fellow stars. I think David Moorcroft was the last star to go out with the pack on a Sunday morning. So we have a separation between the stars and the rest. I used to train and rub shoulders with internationals. One just moved up the continuum as one improved.
The stars were dedicated and made sacrifices. One Bournemouth runner (Roger Mathews?) jacked in his job as a brickie and sent his wife out to work. He is not widely known as it did not quite pay off – but he got close. In 1970, in the famous battle between Keino, Bedford and Clarke in Edinburgh, he came 4th – not far behind Bedford. It was an environment where commitment was a given. I occasionally did over 100 miles in a week and at one time I trained 13 times a week.
These days there seems to be too much concentration on gear inc shoes and fancy theories. Serious diet control might make sense for a international, but a 3.20 marathon performer would better be advised to get out there and do the work. This derives from an ex-member of my club.
Yes to some extent it is the taking part not the winning that counts, but what constitutes taking part. I even had that in the 80s in respect of the London marathon. The time was deemed inconsequential.
We read things in race reports like “Sophie ran well to complete the course in 7.45” – which equates to something like 17:50/mile.
Again, we cannot thank Colin enough for allowing us to publish this. In a blog predominantly full of sarcasm, sattire and poor wit, to have something of substance is very refreshing. More importantly it is nice to hear a bit of angst at the way British running has declined from someone who saw it at it’s peak.