Excess is a Virtue
by Jonas Colting
They say that diligence is a virtue. I don´t know who coined that expression but he was probably not that great of an athlete.
Any successful endurance athlete knows that, on the contrary, excess is a virtue. And it’s something to prefer... to exaggerate to the point of going overboard.
Moderation is the key to mediocrity whereas overdoing things sets out to challenge the limits. It´s a game of make or break. That´s why the Olympic champion Frank Shorter averaged 27 kilometres per day all through the ‘70s including injuries, illness and holidays. Ron Hill, another running legend, has a streak going on 35 years with daily running at least four kilometres. Rumour has it he´s completed that daily run on crutches, in airports and after having been in a car accident suffering a concussion. Rob de Castella was the first marathon world champion and ran in four Olympic Games with a weekly average of 170 kilometres all through his professional career.
These are men that clearly have run through fatigue, exhaustion, blisters, blizzards, broken bones and flues. Somehow they came out on the other side as better runners, but maybe not as better people. The rock solid determination and ambition and the doubtless egocentricity that molds great athletes also has a tendency to lead to burning the candle in both ends where family, relations and even ones health is compromised.
But when continuity is king, maybe harder, better and longer is preferred after all… Emil Zatopek broke new ground with his set of intervals that bewildered the running community at the time. Zatopek ran up to 100x400 per day during certain periods and became one of the most decorated and influential runners of all time.
For a long time the limits of human performance were thought to be 30 or at the most 29 minutes for the 10k, 14 minutes for the 5k and let´s not forget the classic 4-minute barrier for the mile.
The runners who time and time again have shown us that the limit is far from reached have not been approaching their training with moderation or diligence. They didn´t hesitate at the thought of doing the impossible possible but rather broke the mold from what was done in the past.
Runners and athletes who beat records and broke conventions have all been pioneers and have made way for all of us who in our own way are aiming for the stars.
I´m grateful for the fact that someone came up with the preposterous idea of swimming and cycling far before running a marathon. That is a notion high on excess! And whenever I´m stressed out and and have a hard time prioritizing my time I always look at a poster with Scott Tinley, my very first idol in the sport, where he´s quoted,“Training. Everything else can wait.”