«Are you an athlete? God! I couldn’t be bothered! Running all day!» Or «Do you do athletics? So all you’ve got to do is run then. » These are some of the reactions we athletes get every day when we tell people what we do.
I’d like to try and explain why athletics is not all about running. First and foremost, athletics is a sport which brings all athletes together under the same flag. Despite being an individual sport, the atmosphere on the training track, in competitions and trials is overwhelmingly friendly. Athletics is a sociable sport. Opponents are friends. When the judge fires the starting shot and until they cross the finish line they struggle to the point of exhaustion, pushing themselves to the limit and pushing for new record times. But in most cases, when they cross the finish line, those same athletes who competed against each other go back to being friendly rivals who enjoy the amicable atmosphere which exists in the world of athletics.
In addition to its social aspect, athletics is also a struggle. It is a constant battle to achieve something priceless but often as tiny as a hundredth of a second. However, the feeling you get when you achieve this, is impossible to describe. The hours, days, months and years of effort come to fruition. Seeing that improvement on the stopwatch makes the pain and exhaustion all worthwhile.
Athletics is also about self -improvement. We can only learn to improve when we realize that our biggest rival is ourselves, and it is at that precise moment when we see a significant advance in everything. It makes you approach sport in a completely different way and turns it into a personal improvement tool.
Now, how is this personal improvement accomplished? What is athletic training actually like? Without being involved in this world, many assume that athletics is only about running. Well, I can assure you that half of the weekly training regime of an athlete like me doesn’t involve running. We don’t only want to run fast, we try to do everything we need to get our bodies ready so that when we do run, we do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. To achieve this, we work on things such as strength in all of our muscle groups, racing techniques, coordination and flexibility. Thus, it is very possible to see an athlete like me, a specialist in speed trials, doing exercises as diverse as working with hurdles, doing the long jump, exercises with rope and many other things that at first glance seem to have nothing to do running 100m or 200 metres. However, with forward planning and carried out in the right way, these preparations can lead to better results in the 100 and 200 metres race.
That is why, for all those who continue to think that the athletes «just run,» I invite you to try it. Put on your sneakers and go to the track and watch a group of runners training. My experience tells me that you will not regret it.