Commitment – Jo, Mo and the legendary Steve Jones

What a summer it has been for UK runners Jo Pavey, Andy Vernon and Steve Way, all of whom are popular figures within the running community. At the European Championships and Commonwealth Games they delivered heroic medals, PBs and amazing back-stories, fulfilling a commitment to being the best they can be.

We always expect the best from Mo Farah, and he delivered, winning the 10,000m in Zurich. Yet, Farah’s dominance in recent years meant that victory wasn’t as high profile as you might have hoped. In fact, I fear he might have garnered more coverage had he lost the race after a turbulent few months training which included him being airlifted to hospital from a training run.

Our expectations do change, but for all these athletes, including Farah, it has been a very good summer. They have worked hard and delivered, whatever their personal circumstances.

As they plan their next steps and targets, everyday runners can relate to their choices. What’s our focus for the next 6months or year? Is it a marathon, a half, 10k or a cross country season? What will allow us to maximise our fitness without getting injured?

At the moment I am debating my focus for early 2015. Presently, a battle is raging between the cross country season and a spring marathon. What will you target? We all need to commit to a focus soon.

It was interesting to see that Farah has made his commitment, and that marathons are not front of mind. He spoke to the Daily Telegraph earlier this week on his plans:

The double Olympic and world champion now says he has shelved marathon running to focus on the track until after the 2016 Olympics.

“Marathon is entirely different from the 5,000 metres or 10,000m,” he said. “But 2014 is a good year to try new things, as there are no World Championships or Olympics.

“[The London Marathon] was tough, and my 2-08 was not good enough. Last year I ran 3 min 28.81 sec in a 1500m race, and tackled the marathon this year – quite a switch. I was having a hard time. But you always have to try new things in life.”

While admitting there was “a lot of work to be done” before achieving marathon success, Farah also revealed: “I would like to try again towards the end of my career. Right now I am going to concentrate on the Europeans, then on the 2015 World Championships and, after that, on the Olympics in 2016.”

As a marathon runner I am saddened by that. I know it’s probably a sensible decision given his track pedigree, but I would have loved to have seen a Brit, trained by the great marathoner Alberto Salazar, get amongst the East Africans over 26.2miles. It would have been a huge boost for the sport.

Farah’s debut over the distance in London was clearly a disappointment for him as he’s so used to winning. But rarely is a debut in the marathon anything to write home about. You have to commit for the long term; it takes time to learn how to deal with the distance both mentally and physically. I would have loved to see him focus on the marathon at the Rio Olympics in 2016, but that’s not to be.

Farah’s decision will ensure that Steve Jones’ long-standing British marathon record of 2:07:13 remains intact for a while longer. Sadly, Jones’ time is still a long way off for other GB marathoners, despite being set in 1985. Now a coach in Boulder, Colorado, he is a legend of the sport; he ran hard, played hard and worked for the Royal Air Force throughout his career. We can all learn from his commitment.

If you need to be convinced, listen to his interview with Marathon Talk. I often joke with running friends that when facing a running conundrum one should always ask, “what would Steve Jones have done”?  The answer certainly won’t be an easy one, but it will be committed.

And if you need some inspiration, check out this video of a race finish from the man himself. Never. Give. Up.

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