Races and Training: Chapter Nineteen

CHAPTER XIX

GENUINE  BREATHING  EXERCISES

I’VE seen a lot of senseless controversy at one time or another

caused by men telling writers they’re wrong, while at the same time they’re quite unable to give an adequate reason for such a statement. If a thing IS wrong it should be easy to point out the mistake, and when that is done readers will be quick enough to settle for themselves which side of the argument is correct.

I mention this because I’ve been “hauled over the coals” in this manner many times in connection with the present subject, and nearly always, or so it seems to me, by men who had not adequately thought the matter out. I may still be wrong, but you can’t expect me to alter my opinions until I’m given a sound reason for so doing. The mere idea of breathing exercises being fallacious is so new that men are apt to balk at it, and pour out a stream of other people’s opinions without putting it to the test of their own thinking machine. Admitted that my viewpoint on this subject is entirely unorthodox, but any clear advance from the present ” normal ” always is unorthox until it is accepted as ” correct procedure.” So I would ask you to follow out the reasoning I’m giving you here, and thereafter you can form your own opinion.

Taking deep breaths to develop lung expansion seems to be quite popular with many people though, at any rate as far as the average man is concerned, such action is based on a fallacy, viz. that thereby they will attain the vitality which nothing but active exercise can bestow.

Do you take specific heart exercises ? Of course not ! Or exclusive circulation exercises ? Again no. Well, your breathing started at the same time as your un-assisted circulation and is one of its components. If you want to stimulate your circulation you

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take physical exercise : Nature has no other method. If you want to enhance your breathing apparatus you should do exactly the same; heart and lungs share all work with the muscles and benefit equally.

Do you feel any better after you have held your breath for half a minute ? It is just as useless to force your lungs to work point -lessly twice as fast or double the expansion in the same interval. Interfering with Nature, when there is no call for interference, is always a mistake and always will be. The only way to teach your lungs to stand up to heavier work is to give them ” penny installments ” of that work at short intervals and frequently : they will then gradually build up as required. But don’t forget that as soon as you cease to educate them thus they’ll cease to retain the capability you’ve built up. In other words it’s just a waste of time to try to develop lungs for work which you’ve no intention of pursuing for any length of time.

Deep breathing, without the exertion which necessitates it, is like heavy feeding without the exercise which calls for added nourishment ; the lungs are needlessly overloaded with what is not required and use not an atom more oxygen than they want ; just as in the other case the stomach is overworked and can make no use at all of the surplus nourishment supplied.

You didn’t teach yourself to breathe, and if you interfere un­necessarily with the functioning of the lungs, you are more likely to cause trouble than anything else. If you are not breathing in a natural way it is only because you are not taking natural exercise, and the remedj^ for that is simple—see that you DO take it, even if it is only for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Even the modern office clerk, perhaps the man who suffers most from restricted action, can take a quick walk every morning and evening if he makes up his mind to it. With that, and a more generous dose at the week-end, a man can expect to keep his lungs in reasonably good condition, good enough for his way of life anyhow.

Good lungs, like everything else worthwhile, have to be worked for. Stick at the work and you’ll find they stay efficient ; get tired of it and they, too, will suffer a relapse. But you can’t fool them with a counterfeit, however ingeniously it may be camouflaged.

Plain logic, therefore, tells us that the only beneficial breathing exercises are those brought about by activity and physical exertion ; and the obvious moral is that to attempt to obtain the same benefits without doing the necessary work is only fooling yourself that you know better than nature.

Races and Training: Chapter Eighteen

CHAPTER XVIII

LONG WALKS – NO!

I’VE been reading one of our most modern books on training for running. Most of the advice was, or so I thought, just what was needed ; it gave an impression of careful study and considerable thought ; and as the outlook was decently broadminded it came as a shock when I suddenly collided with a point I couldn’t stomach at any price. It was as though the author had over-run red traffic lights without having been aware of their existence—he not only advocated, but even emphasised as so many others have done in previous books, the wisdom of taking long walks if fellows wanted to learn to run well.

I’m quite aware that I’m not inevitably right ; there’s always a chance, and quite a big one, that I’m wrong, but in this particular instance it looks to me as though the boot were on the other foot and no two doubts about it. My own experience, after having covered more than an eighth of a million miles afoot, tells me that walking, like any other’ natural exercise is excellent in itself, but does nothing whatever to help a runner to run : you might just as well expect talking to help a singer to sing;, for both are voca! exercises.

It seems queer that we didn’t discover this long ago. Pick a casual score of men as you go along the street, all between the ages of twenty and forty, and you can take it for granted that they are all quite capable of walking anything up to about ten miles on end.

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some, no doubt, very much more. How many of them could run half that distance without a stop ? Probably not more than ten per cent, and then only those who had specially trained for it. In rough figures that’s somewhere about what it would work out to. That proves right away that walking doesn’t make runners at all, or they’d all be able to run at any rate half as well as they could walk.

No author has yet attempted to tell us in what way runners benefit by taking long walks except to point out that such exercise develops stamina. Prolonged any-other-exercise does exactly the same thing, but you wouldn’t, for instance, tell a runner that he must do a lot of boat-rowing (which gives exercise for the legs and feet) as part of his specialised training for running, so the extra stamina theory hasn’t brought a solution of the problem any nearer. Evidently it is a question that only reason can decide, since mere practice hasn’t so far given us a definite ruling.

Both running and walking are primarily leg exercises, and it would seem therefore that they ought to assist each other. That’s what you’d expect and what, if you didn’t give the matter any thought, you’d state. Yet actual practice doesn’t show any such thing. Fellows may take long walks and run splendidly, yet there seems to be little doubt that if they cut out the walks, even cut them out entirely, they’d still be able to run just as well. I’ve tried both, and for the last half-dozen years of my training only indulged in long walks when running practice was highly inconvenient. When training hardest I walked least.

For many decades it has been drummed into us that walking is an essential item in a runner’s programme, and it has sunk in so deeply that it will take a lot of shifting. But it’s high time we stopped taking for granted everything that has come down to us from our grandfathers ; instead we ought to investigate each detail for ourselves. There’d be no need to take this trouble if our knowledge were complete, but we all know that nothing ever stays quite still ; everything in life—and this includes training of course—either progresses or the reverse, and unless we keep constantly on the move we shall be steering for the scrap heap.

Walking has become a fine exercise, though it might be as well to remember that in prehistoric days it wasn’t an exercise at all; it was merely a convenient means for covering very short distances. All animals, and man is one, had to learn to walk before they could learn to run—a proof that running is more suited to active existence than walking since it must have been acquired at a later date in animal history. Once they had mastered the double lesson they dispensed with walking almost entirely and trotted everywhere. Take a look at wild life in the bush or on the veldt when it doesn’t know it’s being observed and you will notice that practically everything proceeds at a trot unless circumstances render such action dangerous. Almost the only time wild life walks is when it is feeding or stalking.

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We humans walk more than we run because we have been able to drop so much of the violent exercise of former times and have replaced it with more moderate types. Yet to the really well-trained man trotting is distinctly easier than walking ; even today I would far sooner trot fifteen miles than walk a dozen—and I’m in the old-age-pension class. Proof that it actually IS easier is shown by the fact that the trotting records are always ahead of the walking ones ; also that the only men who came in anywhere in the 3,500-miles American Transcontinental Footraces were those who trotted nearly all the time.

Walking, like swimming or any other natural exercise, will make and keep a man fit without any running at all;   and you might note that the reverse is equally true—running, for those who wish to specialise temporarily, will also make and keep you fit whether you walk or not.    Neither walking nor swimming nor any other exercise will add in any way to your running abilities ;   each of them has its own sphere to cover and beyond adding to the general health and stamina extends very little outside.    In other words, from the runner’s point of view long walks are only a waste of time : any other action than running merely sidetracks time and energy which could profitably be devoted to further specialised development. Mind, I wouldn’t have you think for a moment that I despise walking :   far from it.    As a matter of fact I would always fight shy of super-specialisation at running because it is apt to lead to a sort of lopsided result—a man’s legs become splendidly developed while his arms fail to keep pace, and this sort of thing applies similarly to any single form of sport.    Quite a fair proportion of your spare time therefore might well be devoted to walking, swim­ming or games of any description and, although they won’t enhance your running abilities, they’ll do a lot of good in other respects.

Now for another side to it, and one that I’ve left very much alone till now. I can’t help thinking that ordinary walking and healthy youth don’t go overwell together. Ask any active schoolboy which he’d rather do, go for a long walk or have a good game of football, and 99 per cent, would plump for the game. Young men should, in the nature of things, be very lively and active and would almost certainly wish to indulge in exercise which had a spice of excitement about it, and you can’t accuse walking of that. I suppose it’s our upbringing that makes us still do so much of it, probably due to our having been, indirectly anyhow, taught that what was good enough for our forefathers must be good for us too, and this regardless of the fact that the lapse of time ought to have effected improvements or called for adjustment in many ways. Fifty years ago the bulk of the nation might have been less practised in athletics because of lack of opportunity and equipment; and whereas walking might then have suited a large number of men, our more active modern life needs a more energetic form of exercise to keep us up to the mark.

It seems to me, then, that the average young man would be better off if he left long walks until later on in life when strenuous exercise won’t have so great an appeal; surely it’s better to make use of opportunities for vigorous action while he is fully capable of enjoying it.

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From the above you can gather what my advice to runners would be, and not only to runners but to all athletes, for in principle the thing holds good throughout all sports. I’d tell them to study and practise running first of all, and to spend more time at it than any other form of recreation if they want to make a mark of sorts. But I would at the same time advocate reasonable indulgence in any other athletic activity that gave pleasure, provided of course that it did not definitely interfere with the specialised subject. Weight lifting and long-distance running, for instance, would not mix well, any more than would distance cycling and distance running, though a trifle of either would not make any appreciable difference to the other. If walking happens to be your fancy, get busy with it, but, and I would underline this, never take any other exercise whatever as an integral part of your specialised training.

 

Races and Training: Chapter Seventeen

CHAPTER XVII

WHAT IS   THE  BEST  ATHLETIC  AGE ?

YOU can be pretty safe when you say that this is one of those problems that defy a hard and fast solution. But in spite of that you can get as near to it as no matter if you take a careful survey of the principal factors.

On the surface it would appear that when a man is in the first flush of full physical development he must necessarily be at his best, so far as muscles, suppleness and energy go. In one sense that’s right enough, and it will explain why sprinters are undoubtedly at their prime in the earlier twenties. But having got so far you come to a point where there’s more in it than mere muscles and suppleness : mental equipment has to be taken into account as well, and with its aid some years can be added to the apparent summit period.

You see it’s like this : we must have been just physical animals for thousands of centuries before we developed brains to such an extent that they could be trusted to take entire command and oven over-rule instinct. Now that we’ve reached that stage we’ve lost most of our instinctive action, and intellect has to rule the roost instead. It does this to such purpose that we have already learnt how our minds can direct and enhance physical action ; can develop abilities to an even greater extent than any ” born athlete ” who fails to use his head to advantage. That will explain why, in athletics, the white man has always beaten the coloured man whose brains are not so advanced, except when he has taken his coloured rival in hand and trained him as he trains other whites. That gives you a. sound reason as to why the blacks should, at any

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rate temporarily, beat the whites at sprinting, for they’re much less removed from atavism and savagery, and consequently have less (ground to make up. But they don’t make it up until the white has taught them just how to do it.

During an actual sprint intellect doesn’t get much of an innings because there isn’t time ; a fellow just lets out for all he is worth and his energies are momentarily devoted to that and nothing else ; all the headwork is done beforehand in cultivating correct action and quick response. But from sprinting distance onwards more time is available for mental supervision during the actual event, with the result that its advantages become more and more significant. Have you ever heard of a coloured man who had any chance against a well-trained white at long distances ? All the same, when we start seriously to train blacks for this kind of event we shall probably get the same results as we’ve already done in sprinting and boxing.

Again, sprinting probably requires less actual thinking than any other form of exercise except casual walking. Oh no ! I’m not suggesting that those who go in for it are in any way less brainy, for that is not the case ; they merely take naturally to a form of sport for which they are physically and mentally suited, knowing instinctively that they can obtain results more quickly in that way, and very wisely they make the most of such temperamental urge. We already know that a sprinter’s finest period is the shortest of all in duration—just a few years around the early twenties and no more.

Once beyond sprinting, however, most forms of athletics depend for their success on brain work during their performance ; more time is involved not only in training but in the competition itself, for experience and judgment come increasingly into the picture. Correct judgment of your own abilities becomes the supreme test, and that can be obtained only by persistent experiment. This is the snag that holds up the majority of athletes because, and only because, they have not been long enough at the game to assess their ability correctly and adjust their action accordingly.

Why do fellows fall out of a race or fail to finish anywhere near where they know they ought to ? Why do boxers take an unmerciful hammering and still try to carry on ? Simply because they haven’t adequately judged what they were up against and have not therefore devoted a, good deal more time and trouble to prepare for their contest. It is nearly always the same, and the lesser lights retire temporarily defeated yet knowing that they could most certainly do far and away better if they punished themselves with more intensive preparation.

No matter what the event, whether cycling, boxing, rowing, running or anything else where more than a few seconds are required for its achievement, success can always be realised by weighing up the conditions and thereafter undergoing adequate training to meet them. Anyone can put in a furious burst to start with, but unless he is pretty certain of immediate success—

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and be almost certainly isn’t—he is making a free gift of the event to his rival or competitors. Admitted you can’t always do the ri”ht/thins, but reasonable caution has won more contests than it IrTs lost while taking a chance more often brings about the reverse. “you can look at it this way. Physical growth is already well on its wav even before the time”of birth ; whereas reason on account .fits being a later stage in development, doesn’t make a start until a child begins to speak, and its development period long outlasts that of mere physical expansion. So far as the mind only is concerned an athlete would probably be at his best for prolonged exertion when he was between thirty-five and fifty, but by that time his muscles and whatnots have become set and have lost so much elasticity that mental direction, however efficient, may not he sufficient to outbalance the physical superiority of men considerably younger.

It is evident, then, that a man’s best time for protracted competition must be assessed from a combination of physical and mental maxima, and this leaves us with a range of from about twenty-five to forty-five years. Of course you are bound to strike an exception here and there. Ballington, the South African, beat world’s track record by a very wide margin in his 100-miles race at the age of twenty, and another man of more than twice that age did the same thing though not so well at an earlier date. Yet that actually doesn’t mean so much, for Ballington could very certainly have done even better had he been able to continue training, just as the older man would almost surely have made a hotter show had he taken to the game when younger.

That may all sound straightforward enough but there’s still another point which is no less so ; and that is at the age of, say, twenty-five, a man’s physical capabilities are certainly at their peak. The mere fact that a sprinter begins to lose a trifle of his speed after that age shows that all his muscles must be similarly affected. Not only that, but if he is at his physical peak he must also be at his recovery peak at the same time. And as stamina is assuredly a physical attribute he can be at his stamina peak then too. Actually “of course we don’t all go in for training to bring us to our ” peak ” at that age ; and consequently where stamina and speed are wanting, they can be very considerably improved at a later date by conscientious work. But it seems to me to be unlikely that a man well over twenty-five could ever get quite to the standard of speed, strength and recovery which might have been his at that aero—which would have been his had he been perfectly trained from childhood. But then none of us is anything like perfectly trained throughout all the years of bodily growth, though probably the ” born athlete ” gets nearer to it than the rest of us. Hackenschmidt, for instance, who was admittedly the finest physical specimen of the modern world, spent almost every moment he could spare during his childhood and youth at speed- and body-building exercises and, having been born a strong man “—like Bach was a born musician ” or Sir Oliver Lodge a ” born thinker “—was

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able to outpoint any and every man he ever came up against. To my mind it is only in a case of this sort that the man-in-the-street meets his master ; so many ” born athletes ” fail to attain their real status for want of continuous and intensive training, that the man who really does tackle the job thoroughly stands more than a good chance of beating the best of them. That he does stand such a chance is proved over and over again. The ” born ” runner recognises his ability without having to look for it and. like born musicians or born mathematicians, shows up at an early age. Yet neither Ballington nor I were ever particularly attracted in this way ; both of us took up running with the idea of learning something we were unused to, something which would improve health and keep us reasonably fit. It was only after (in my ease nearly twenty years after) we had got to that stage, that top class performances began to appear on the horizon as possi­bilities, and then we had to get stuck into work more strenuously than we had formerly considered possible.

Don’t lose heart, then, if you’ve not reached the standard you’ve had in mind. Think it over carefully ; decide what is necessary in the way of training ; then set to again, and finally do even a bit more preliminary work than you decided. It CAN be done !

Races and Training: Chapter Sixteen

CHAPTER XVI

MERE  EMPTY  THEORY  OR   .   .   ?

PROVIDED it is of the right sort, the greater amount of training for any subject you can get through the more efficient you’re bound to become at it. That’s only commonsense, isn’t it ? While we all admit it we fail, and go on failing to apply it to athletics.

I’ll take sprinting as an example because in this particular form of running a greater contrast is provided than with other styles, though all are involved. Just one axiom first to work on : If a theory is absolutely sound for one distance it must be equally to in principle for all.

Well, what does the modern textbook define as preparation for the 100 yards sprint nowadays ? Something of this sort—a month or six weeks to reach top form, and in the meantime half-a-dozen practice starts with a 50 yard and 70 yard burst for Mondays, plus perhaps a quarter of a mile jog round the track ; practice starts and two 100 yards sprints on Tuesdays; Wednesdays “off”; Thursdays, 50 and 75 yards sprints again with practice starts and a quarter-mile jog; Fridays “off” and an event or time trial on Saturdays. All the starts and sprints to be carried out at top speed of course.

Now look through that schedule carefully and you’ll begin to realise why Wednesdays and Fridays (as well as Sundays of course) are set aside as rest days ; they jolly well have to be or the budding sprinter might be stale in a fortnight. Here we have 33 per cent. of the days suitable for training ruled clean out to make allowance for the overwork on the others. If you added Sundays the percentage would be even greater. Personally I didn’t rest altogether, even on Sundays, because I knew it would not be wise ; I generally indulged in many miles of walking at a strictly comfortable pace.

If nothing else has taught us the folly of such training, common-sense should come to our aid. No doubt you’ll agree that physical effort and food are both daily desirabilities. Would you consider it rational to over-eat on four days of each week and starve the other three ? Yet because of faulty practice in the past we are taught to carry on with athletics in this way today.

The whole fault lies in the tempo of the training. Animals feed and exercise to a greater extent than we do, yet, unless they are absolutely forced to, they never go ” all out.” How is it then that most of them can easily outrun a man ? It must be because they do far more work in the training line and do it without any days of rest in between. Yet nearly all their work is reasonably easy.

In long distance running for men it has recently been proved in a very decisive manner—McNamara, Ballington, Pat Dengis, Tom Richards—that much more work of a less intensive character than heretofore is essential to betterment; in other words that a man should train in the same way as all other animals. If it is true for long-distance work it must be equally true in principle for all types of running. Yet what sprinter today would ever dream of confining his efforts to 75 or 80 per cent, of his ability ? He’d tell you, and sincerely believe it himself just as Pat Dengis did at one time with marathon racing, that it would “slow you down.” That is what he has been taught, yet how could he possibly know if he had never tried it for himself ? Why should it ? He couldn’t tell you that : all he knows is that every other sprinter trains and has trained the same way, and that therefore it is almost certainly right or the mistake would have been discovered long ago.

Now see what would happen if he did make the change. Right away he would find he could undergo something like 100 per cent, more training without taking any more risks. There’d be a greater number of runs each day with a corresponding increase in the demand made on muscles and sinews, and of course they’d respond to it. Besides, he’d be able to train every day of the week if he wanted to, taking perhaps only a partial rest on the day immediately before a competition.

Under no circumstances should he ever have a time trial; such a thing is a foolish squandering of the reserve of energy he has so carefully built up. Races should be the only time trials, and when these are two weeks—preferably three—apart he is likely to be really at his best. The distance runner would need a longer period still ; six weeks between events would be more suitable for a marathon man.

I have often wondered why athletics should be taught differently to all other sciences. It must be of course because it is so much

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less advanced, less understood. In no other science would the utmost effort be encouraged or even permitted except at infrequent intervals ; experience has long since taught us that no first-class job is done in this super-intensive fashion. The finest specialised work needs long practice over a considerable period, and to attempt to sustain top speed is recognised as utter folly. High pressure cannot be maintained for any length of time, a very certain proof that we were never meant to try.

We must wake up to the fact that athletics, like everything else, is not, nor ever can be, perfected ; there will always be more to learn. Hitherto we have been taught to believe that present-day methods were all that could be desired, but the sooner we question this and discover something in advance the better for all of us. Our trouble has always been the lack of teachers willing to spend the best part of their lives at the science : we have taken no trouble to encourage men to do so, but have left it to one in a million here and there to carry on as best he could. That is why athletics is so far behind other sciences with regard to knowledge.

Races and Training: Chapter Fifteen

CHAPTER XV 

THE   WAY  TO   START

 RUNNING is, as you know, a basic sport; and in one way or another enters into most games. Also you will admit that the less artificial a sport is the more its cultivation becomes worthwhile, for only by carrying on as Nature intended can we be sure of natural health.

All the same, it is as well to remember that we are no longer the sons of nature our remote ancestors were : all sorts of artificialities, clothes, locomotion and persistent advances in every direction have largely supplanted instinct and left reason to take its place. It’s all right so long as reason is properly applied, but you can see, and without having to look very far, that this point is all too frequently overlooked ; wo are too apt to let reason take the course of our inclinations without due regard to its own decisions.

As a child you went to school and started to learn to read, and there wasn’t much fun in the lesson. You also learnt to run, and that was much nicer, for all your ancestors had done that, and you took to it kindly. Running was easier than reading, though even then you didn’t want an overdose of either. Later on you probably read a great deal for the mere pleasure of it and because you were aware of its benefits. Did it ever strike you that precisely the same thing would occur with running, only more so ? Why more

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so ? Because reading educates your mind only, whereas running or any natural exercise is physical as well as mental development, and makes the whole machine more capable.

It’s simple enough. Ordinary running—not racing—builds you up to a state of health far and away above the standard enjoyed by the majority of men, as of course climbing, swimming and so on, will; it’s not applicable only to running, but to every form of basic sport as well as to many of our modern games—tennis for instance.

When your physique is about as near perfection as Nature can make it, all your abilities become greatly enhanced ; you can work better, think more clearly and play more actively and intensely than before. The efforts become simplified because you have a superior machine to work with, and your rivals haven’t the same chance unless they polish up their physiques similarly. A welcome result is that you get a lot more enjoyment out of life, which is what we look for : we only do things because we consider the result will bring us pleasure in one way or another, even if it is only indirectly.

So, for those of you who are not alreadj^ athletes or runners, I would suggest that you take up some form of outdoor sport right away. But I have other suggestions as well, and I wouldn’t have you swallow one without considering the others.

If you decide to begin with running, make a note to start with that it is only the basis of most other outdoor activities ; it won’t be necessary at any time to engage in racing, though it’s likely to lead to it eventually. Just consider wild animals, which on the whole are certainly much healthier than the average modern man : they run plenty, but never at any time for all they are worth unless obliged to by absolute fear. Even then it is only being scared stiff that will make them extend to their utmost. So if you take this nature lesson to heart you will know that sheer racing should be kept within distinctly restricted limits.

Set about learning, then, to run in an easy and serene manner, knowing that once learnt—and even during the learning—you can thoroughly enjoy every bit of the exercise. You will at the same time be acquiring the health you have always wanted to possess, and no one can do you out of it. If you really mean to carry on without discomfort like this you MUST cut out everything in the nature of serious racing, except on infrequent occasions when you decide to compete at an event. Although at first sight this might appear rather queer it is nothing but sound commonsense.

Again why I I’ve given you one reason above, and here’s another. Do you play the piano ? No matter, if you don’t you can easily apply to anyone who does. Finger muscles are the principal ones engaged. Remember, the rules which apply to one set will apply equally to all. If you practise speeding continually at any passage of music it will shortly end up in complete instability, hopeless incompetence : yet if you begin slowly and increase the pace so gradually as to be almost unnoticeable, never going quite

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as fast as you think you might possibly be able to manage, you will find that for a single occasion every now and again, if required, you can surpass your wildest dreams in the way of masterly execution. Apply this to running, where legs are the principal factors, and you get a similar result.

After all, when you come to consider it, this is only natural. You can’t race successfully before you have learnt to run decently, so why try ? Racing doesn’t necessarily do a fellow any good, except that it encourages him with his hobby ; all the lasting benefits are to be derived from moderate exercise, and racing isn’t moderate.

Nowadays a five mile cross-country run is a common event. Why not make a start and get busy for one of these ? It’s no good putting off till tomorrow ; are you boss of yourself or not ? If you intend to get out of the rut you won’t wait to be pushed— he who hesitates is ” bossed.”

Your age doesn’t matter ; you can be anything between fifteen and fifty, or even more, and it will still be good for you. First of all obtain the necessary outfit ; fortunately in the case of runners this is very inexpensive. A vest or sweater, shorts and crepe-rubber-soled shoes. Crepe rubber lasts longer than any other kind, likewise it is easily reinforced and repaired in the same way as a cycle tyre. Canvas shoes are more suitable than leather because weather conditions don’t affect them : ” bad ” weather is of course every bit as natural as ” fine,” and unless it happens to be really atrocious won’t interfere with you in any way. Socks or wash-leather toe-caps are advisable ; I often used the latter in summer and always the former in really cold weather.

Two primary considerations are essential; (1) you must practise as frequently as you possibly can, and (2) you must never permit yourself to approach real exhaustion, must never become badly tired. So long as you stick to those two you will continually progress : the less closely you adhere the longer will it take you to get thoroughly fit.

A quarter of a mile gentle trot in the early morning or evening won’t worry you at all provided you don’t go at it hard enough to ^et quite winded. A trifling dose like this will in a few days enable you to manage twice the distance without any more effort : in fact a single month will see you doing at least a mile a day, even if you were hopelessly out of training at the start. From then on it is only a matter of time ; when you can comfortably trot two or three miles daily without in any way really exerting yourself, you can enter when you please for a five-mile cross-country race and know that you will put up a decent show at it.

Sooner or later (sooner is much better) you will be wise to join a club, even if you have no intention of competing. This will enable you to get a weekly run with other members during which you can learn a lot. Not only that, but it will put you in the way of judging all sorts of styles, from which you can form your own conclusions. The best style is the easiest—not to learn, but to

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practise when acquired. You will find runners a cheerful fraternity; they can hardly be anything else being so absurdly healthy. And you will be helping your fellow clubmen just as they are helping vou ; that alone would make it worthwhile becoming a member.

As to the distance you want to cover, this is solely a matter of style combined with the time you’ve got available. The further you want to go the shorter your stride will have to be and the longer it will take you to build up the necessary stamina. But nothing can stop you except yourself, no matter what distance you have set your mind on. So hang on patiently to training and you will ” get there ” all right.

I remember one middle-aged man in Rhodesia who was inclined to be more than a trifle stout. He was quite aware of the fact that anyone could run ten miles who practised along the lines I’ve been discussing, though at the time he was unable to run at all. In less than six months he had covered his ten miles, using the training methods I have just given you. So, no matter what your age or circumstances, you CAN learn to run, run well, and run success­fully, if you reckon your determination is no worse than the next man’s. Perhaps you don’t believe me. Try it and believe yourself.

Races and Training: Chapter Fourteen

CHAPTER XIV

MY  LAST  RACE

TALK about a sea of troubles! That’s just what I headed for every time I tried the hundred miles on the Bath Road. Yet it wasn’t the distance that beat me, for I ran more than half as far again in Canada ; it was the spate of handicaps that erupted everv time I had a go at it.

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Take my first try in 1928. It was mid-winter, and although I managed to scrape through in 14h. 22m. 10s. I knew it was nowhere near the time that ought to have been put up considering the type of training I had undergone—a type altogether in advance of previous methods. Fortunately the public seemed pleased, but that was only because they didn’t realise how poor the time really was—Ballington, the South African, taught them that a few years later.

Handicaps ! Just look at them ! 1927-28 was one of the most severe winters Southern England had had for many a long year. While training I passed cars abandoned on the main Oxford Road almost completely smothered in drifts, and the snowfall was so excessive that there was one day when I didn’t run at all. I was quartered up on top of the Chiltern Hills and tried to get through a four-foot-deep drift, but after a prolonged struggle gave it up and made nay way back to the house again. Next day, trying a different route which led across a wire fence hidden in the snow, I managed to reach the road and had the usual run. Here I was being treated to weeks of snow and ice, whereas for the previous twenty-five years I had been perspiring in South and Central Africa !

Then, of course, the days were at their shortest and many miles of the route had to be covered in darkness or the hundred wouldn’t be finished by four in the afternoon, and the Press photographers said it was essential I should complete the journey by then. Darkness is a severe handicap to running, for without thinking about it you naturally lift your feet higher off the ground when you can’t see the surface, and this tends to waste energy and tire you sooner.

On top of all this the road was quite new to me, for weather conditions had prevented any travelling over it as I had intended. Finally, when, on the afternoon before the race, I was able to get down by car, there was a temporary thaw and the countryside was inundated, hundreds of yards of the road being flooded. Then accommodation at Box, the village where the two a.m. start was to take place, was so overtaxed that I had to share a bed with another man and go mighty short of sleep into the bargain. You can gather from all these adverse circumstances that I was anything but satisfied with the result in spite of its being a record. But I had no time to spare then, as I was due to sail for America alnmst immediately to compete in the First Transcontinental Footrace, so I shelved the idea of another attempt until the outlook was more hopeful.

Nearly five years went by while I raced in Canada and the States and it wasn’t till I was nearing fifty that I found a chance to get back to the only record I was thoroughly dissatisfied with. Early in 1933 I was again training on the Bath Road determined that this time I would know every inch of it and cut out all the mistakes of the former occasion. I would run in May, when darkness and low temperature could no longer spoil my chances.

After six weeks’ training up and down the road at Newbury 

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I moved to Marlborough to learn the far end of it. Just after settling down there I got a cablegram from my American manager, who was then in France, saying he had booked me with my electric running platform at a theatre in Nice and urging me to embark immediately. I was quite fed up at having to alter all my arrangement when I was on the point of achieving my purpose, but after travelling to London and seeing Binks, who had all the arrange­ments in hand, I decided to go straight on to France and postpone the ” hundred ” till my return.

Six weeks later I was back once more and Binks had picked on July 1st for the attempt. This time there was no sign of anything wrong and I had every reason to expect all would go well. Would you believe it ? the day itself was the hottest during the entire year ; dry heat, as in South Africa, would not have mattered, as I was used to it ; but damp heat is a terrible handicap to prolonged effort, as many of our marathon races over here will prove.

In the cool of the morning and even during the forenoon I managed to travel well, so well that at seventy miles I was nearly three-quarters of an hour ahead of the previous record. But then the heat began to tell and stomach trouble came on which continually held me up. I carried on hoping for the best, but unfortunately got worse, and finally at eighty-five miles both those great runners, W. G. George and J. Binks, who were among the officials, advised me to quit. I was then still twenty minutes ahead of the former run but, as they pointed out, I should certainly lose all that and more, besides running unnecessary risks. Knowing it was absolutely sound I took their advice and ” called it a day.” Afterwards, when I came to look into things, I found I hadn’t entirely wasted my time, for I had put up a new sixty-mile record at 7h. 15m. 30s.

Well, so much for two goes at it, each of them most unsatisfactory. I told Binks I’d like to have another shot at some future date and he willingly offered to convene officials and supervise details, and in the meantime I carried on with training.

The next date decided on was three weeks later, July 22, and once more I went down to Bath so as to be handy for the starting point at Box, a small village a few miles nearer London. The week before I went there I was alarmed to discover signs of serious inflammation at my right Achilles tendon. I cut down the daily mileage at once and the trouble eased considerably : in fact the foot got so much better that, with, the trial still a week away, I went out for a thirty-miler to see how it would stand up to it and, as it appeared to be no worse, decided to go ahead with the race. Ah ! if only I had known !

Twenty-four hours before the start the tendon again showed definite signs of trouble and I was in a deuce of a fix. If I wired to Binks putting off the run he might be unable to get in touch with the officials in time to prevent their travelling down—they were going by car—whereas if I started it was quite possible, or so I thought

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 that I might actually get through all right. There was nothing for it but to wait till Binks arrived and discuss the position with him. Both he and W. G. George thought it would be better to start and chance my luck : as they said, it MIGHT be all right, and anyhow there could be no knowing till I did try.

I set off at three a.m. and for more than a dozen miles all went well. The next dozen, however, made me very uneasy as to whether I should get through or not ; another five and I was walking with one leg and dragging the other after it. I was quite shocked at the disaster and at having given the officials so much work and travel for nothing. Good sportsmen as they were, they seemed to be far more concerned over my ailment than their own loss of time.

Back I went to Gerrards Cross, where I was then staying. My leg was bad but I would never permit anything of that sort to to stop training ; I had long since proved that the only safe way to conquer strains was to continue, certainly much more gently and carefully, with the exercise that caused them. So I went out for a short distance every day though it could hardly be called a run : I limped dreadfully and went on limping for the next ten months, improving so slowly that progress was only noticeable at intervals of many weeks.

Of all my physical troubles this Achilles tendon was the most exasperating. I knew I was in for months of annoyance yet underestimated its duration—it was almost exactly a year before I had completely recovered and knew it was really safe to make a last attempt. Once more I approached Binks and found him as ready as ever to undertake all the arrangements and see the thing through. July 20th was the day decided on and, with a week to spare, I was down at Bath once more. It was neck or nothing this time and I knew it ; already fifty-one years old. I couldn’t expect to keep up 700-800 miles a month on my feet indefinitely.

For the fourth time, then, I left the Bear Hotel at Box at three a.m. and set out for the long journey to Hyde Park Corner. The first twenty-five miles was always child’s play since I was obliged to travel leisurely in order to be able to last out over the entire distance. You can say roughly that at about forty-five miles I began to get a bit tired ; at seventy I was badly tired, and ninety desperately so, and for the last ten I just hung on—goodness only knows how, but I managed it—hoping for the best and knowing that the end was in sight.

Well, things appeared to be more hopeful this time for I had all the daylight I wanted and there wasn’t a sign of either wind or rain. I got along quite decently, too, and stopped for my first drink just after twenty-six miles at the foot of the hill leading from Marlborough to Savernake Forest. The miles were mounting up satisfactorily and before long I was passing the 50 mark and still going well. The day was getting very hot, however, and perspira­tion seemed to be taking it out of me more than I thought it should :

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so much so that before I reached seventy miles I was pretty badly ” gone in.”

It was just about here that I became aware that the combination of damp heat and prolonged effort was bringing on stomach disorder again and that it was this, and not merely heavy perspiration, that was making me wilt. Yet I wasn’t as bad as on the former occasion when I had dropped out at eighty-five miles, and though the pace was reduced by all of a mile an hour I reckoned I should get through —indeed, knew that I must, since it was my last chance.

It was a pretty near thing all the same. Whereas at 70 miles I had been the best part of three-quarters of an hour ahead of the 1928 record, at a hundred, what with all the time lost during the last third of the run, I was only sixteen minutes (14h. 6m. 0s.) to the good. Thank goodness it was just sufficient to break the new track record for the distance set up in Canada a couple of years previously.

Well, it was no good fighting shy of the fact ; I had to admit to myself that, so far as the ” hundred ” was concerned, I had completely failed to put up reasonable time on this course, and I was too old to think of continuing for another year or two. There remained only one useful alternative, and that was to put my experience at the disposal of other athletes so that they could carry on where I had left off.

Races and Training: Chapter Thirteen

CHAPTER XIII

MY  LONGEST  RUN

I WAS in Canada in 1931 with my racing partner Gavuzzi. We had been competing in snowshoes over some two hundred miles between Quebec and Montreal, coming in second and fourth, after which there were no major events in sight until the midsummer 500-mile relay. I had already collected the records between twenty-seven and a hundred miles yet there still remained one item I thought was needed to complete the list : the 24 hours.”

Races of this sort are not promoted nowadays, though before the motor age they were by no means rare. Besides, the number of men who are sufficiently trained today for such a distance is so small as to be almost non-existent ; it takes years of hard work to qualify for a run of hundred miles and upwards. All the same I had long since made up my mind to have a shot at it before I faded out and as I was now nearly fifty it was evident I couldn’t put it off much longer. Once before I had suddenly made an enormous jump in mileage when I raised my maximum temporarily from fifty to hundred without any special preparation. As my theories for extending the distance’ had worked all right I decided I’d chance it again and add another fifty, which would just about cover the ground necessary to obtain a, new record.

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Gavuzzi, too, wanted to have a shot at the game though, as he had not yet tried actual racing over the greater distances, he felt forty miles would probably be more to his liking. These two track records, then, forty and hundred-and-fifty miles, were the ones we decided to attack.

I knew that the figures then in the books for the twenty-four hours were unreliable, as there had not been enough officials to check the laps ; but after talking things over with one of the actual competitors in those far-off races – they had taken place almost half a century earlier – I got a fair idea of what was required. One thing was certain ; if I wanted the goods I should have to buy them, i.e. provide the funds to stage the event and chance whether it was run at a loss or otherwise.

The 500-miles relay, for which Gavuzzi and I formed a team, was still six months ahead and this would allow us to stage the 150-miler in the Spring, thus giving us plenty of time to recover from the temporary exhaustion it was bound to cause. You don’t recover from racing of this sort in a day or two or even in a week ; to be quite at my best I needed rather more than a month. You might feel perfectly fit a few days later but another trial, if you were foolish enough to risk such a thing, would prove at once that you were still far from top form.

For a start w^e cast around to find someone who could attend to the actual details of organisation. We were much too busy with hard training (my own work was around 800 miles per month) to see to it ourselves, and were fortunate enough to find Tom Orompton enthusiastic over the idea. We both knew him well, for he had convoyed one of the Transcontinental racers across America with us the year before. He was a resident of Hamilton, which place would suit us perhaps even better than Montreal, as winter conditions there were not so severe or so prolonged. Where­upon we went there by train and took up our quarters at the Stafford House Hotel.

Crompton had made a mark as a walker in the North of England in his younger days and was now well established as an estate agent. As things turned out we couldn’t have made a happier choice, for Hamilton is one of the keenest athletic centres—weren’t the first of the Empire Games held there ?—and everyone knew him and volunteered to help.

Jacques Girling, another resident, mustered a posse of young men from the local University and took charge of the lap-scoring. There were four scribes to each runner, two ” on ” and two ” off.” Then the City Surveyor came along and measured the track both immediately before and immediately after the event to make quite certain that no mistake in the distance could possibly occur. Xever have I known a more perfectly arranged competition.

In the meantime Crompton was insisting on publicity to ensure success from a business point of view and suggested that we tackled the existing Toronto-Hamilton road record of approximately forty-four miles which then stood at 6h. 56m. 50s. You could see by the time that this had been put up by a partially-trained man and, as Gavuzzi and I were just then among the best-trained in the world, we knew we could manage the job and yet take it quite easy all the way. So easy in fact that we allowed the local newspapers to announce that we were likely to knock off an hour, though we did NOT tell them that no racing would be required to do this. We were obliged to go easy, for otherwise we might tire ourselves when the attempt at the record lay only ten days ahead.

I saw Crompton almost daily and soon got to know that things were being planned with unusual care. I stood for the athletes while he represented the general public. I knew that unless runners competed under reasonable conditions they wouldn’t stand much chance of putting up records, so the track was one of the first things to be considered.

The Arena, where ice-hockey and skating are held, was Crompton’s choice, and arrangements were made to lay a square track immediately after a hockey match finished. Crompton supervised every bit of the work in connection with this and it can’t have been a light job. We runners were very particular : we considered that wood was too tough and too noisy for such a long run ; we wanted something which was softer and wet which would not break up altogether. Crompton’s energy was amazing, and it wasn’t long before he produced a builder’s composition, a sort of mixture of felt and paper, which appeared to provide exactly the conditions we required, and a surface of this was laid down.

Why a ” square ” track ? Well, perhaps it needs some explanation. All we long-distance men practised on roads, rarely indeed on a track, and in consequence when we were called on to race round a circular course we became giddy after a time, and if we still went on with it, actually sick. The only way to prevent this was to use a square track with comparatively sharp corners, since it would do away with the perpetual turning of a circle.

The corners however would be awkward to negotiate unless they were well banked, and that involved climbing and descending a few inches four times each lap—a matter of some 1,500 ft. during 150 miles—but there was no way of avoiding it.    Again, approximately twelve laps went to the mile, which meant that among men racing respectively 40 and 150 miles there would be endless overtaking.    If the faster men had to run continually round the slower ones it would seriously increase their distance without altering the course measurement,  and you  can’t afford to keep on running yards out of your way when you go for world records.    The com­petitors recognised this and all agreed to step aside when a faster man approached from behind so as to give him a reasonable chance. I may say that this was carried out both in the letter and in the spirit throughout the entire race ;   even when fellows were desperately tired—and you’re apt to get that way after a hundred miles afoot—they made a passage for anyone they heard  overtaking them.    That such methods should be willingly and intentionally observed by professionals makes one wonder when amateurs, who are definitely taught by amateurs to make way for no one, will learn what unadulterated sport ought to be.

Presently the day came for our Toronto-Hamilton run, which had been arranged and advertised by the Hamilton Herald. At five a.m. on March 24th we got into a car and were taken to the City Hall at Toronto for the start of our return journey. Except for a short visit to a teashop for re-fuelling purposes, no time was lost and we soon got away. For the sake of appearances we did not run together ; once we were outside the city one of us would keep fifty yards or so behind the other for a few miles and then reverse the position, each careful to see that an average of not more than 7½ miles per hour was exceeded.

Somewhere about halfway one of the leading cars took a wrong road—we were to run through Dundas—and we went a mile out of our way before being called upon to stop and turn back. Even then we were so comfortably ahead of schedule that when we got to the tape at Hamilton we had cut more than an hour (5h. 52m. 15s.) off the previous record. Without waiting a moment we hurried round to our hotel to get a bath and change and only heard afterwards that, unknown to us, the Mayor had intended to give us a civic welcome but was frustrated by our hasty disappearance.

That run taught us two things : (a) we were in real good fettle for our attempt at record in ten days’ time and (b) at a later date we could, if we wanted to, certainly cut off another half-hour. But that would have to wait of course.

As the track in the Arena was somewhat small and also because it was useless having a lot of ” also rans,” we limited the number of competitors to a selected few of the best long-distance men in the States and Canada. McNamara, who I knew was as good as any of us, came up from New York where he then lived—he had formerly been farming in Queensland, Australia. Granville, the Canadian champion walker, who was also a runner, was a resident of Hamilton. Lin Dilks was the 100-mile running champion of the States and hailed from Newcastle, Pennsylvania. Salo and Richman, the six-day-record team, couldn’t manage the trip, so Simpson from Burlington (Vt.) was included. One more local man. Tom Ellis, and the list was complete.

T suppose we were all a bit dithery and anxious to get to work wheri the day arrived. Crompton had arranged for a cycling exhibition by Peden, the international racer, and others ; and also for several boxing competitions which took place in a ring inside the track. These lasted until nine p.m. when we Were due to start on our long run and, after we were going, continued till about ten p.m.

We had to make arrangements among ourselves as to how to carry out our programme. Rarely did any of us break down during a race, but precautions had to be taken. If Gavuzzi failed at his forty miles either McNamara or I could certainly manage it provided we were not too far behind him. So we two agreed to keep within two or three miles until we considered him “safe” after which we could slow down, as of course we should have to, or we shouldn’t last out for twenty-four hours. If it became necessary, a word or two as we ran round would decide which of us was to go for forty and the other could settle down for the longer distance. 

What with photographs and a trot round the track following our introduction it seemed a long time before we got the signal to start. The new surface was ideal for running—we were all wearing crepe-rubber-soled canvas shoes—and Gavuzzi let out in convincing style. Each time he came round we all widened out and let him through, and the same applied to McNamara and myself who were doing only about half a mile an hour less. We dare not do more because if we did we should never last out for the full distance, and were afraid to do less because if Gavuzzi failed we should be too far back to collar the record. It was bad business for both McNamara and myself but the best we could do.

Once we were well on the move we had plenty to occupy our minds what with turning corners and passing other men. Then our times and distances were posted up every half-hour so that everyone should know where we stood. Gavuzzi was keeping his end up in right good style averaging just under ten to the hour and both McNamara and I were hoping he had his record ” in the bag,”‘ as the Americans say, when we were dismayed at just over twenty miles to find he was no longer lapping us. Another round or so and we were overlapping him and we slowed temporarily to get information. A leg was giving trouble which would necessitate his retiring immediately ; there was no hope of his being able to carry on.

At the time McNamara was just over two miles behind him while I was a mile further in the rear, and he said he was quite capable of taking over the forty ” as he was going strongly if I would concentrate on the longer journey.    That suited me all right and I stopped speeding at once and travelled round at a comfortable and leisurely pace—something in the region of seven miles to the hour.    McNamara however,  ” trod on it,” and to such purpose that he gathered in a new record at thirty miles ;  the way he con­tinued to overtake us all seemed absolutely amazing, especially when you remembered that he had already done so much.    At forty he was even further ahead of record, his time being 4hrs. 31m. 31s.    After which no doubt he felt it was time to sober down if he was to have any  hope  at  all  of lasting for  twenty-four hours.

By that time I was between three and four miles behind him and the others were many miles behind me ; for along with Gavuzzi, McNamara and I were quite the most strenuously trained runners there. Granville could easily put it across ” any of us at walking, but you can’t be a record walker and a record runner at the same time. He was three-quarters of a mile behind Dilks who was now in third position : Simpson followed making a close fifth and at the rear came Ellis, who had not tried these enormous distances before. Ellis finally ” gave it best ” between sixty and seventy miles.

After Ellis had gone Simpson started walking, a game he was distinctly better at than running. What’s more he kept on walking and ran no more. That of course prevented him overtaking any of the others, for Dilks and Granville stuck to running.

Each six or seven miles, sometimes perhaps even more frequently, a man would stop for half a minute to put away a drink of hot tea or coffee. Much more rarely we had something to eat—in my case my only meal was a fruit salad, though some of them had cheese-sandwiches—when we would either trot round at about six miles an hour while we devoured or (as I found I had to) actually stop and shovel it down hurriedly. There was no fear of indigestion : men as well trained as we were didn’t suffer from that, though I had known all about it before I started training. The running kept us comfortably warm and no more, for the temperature of the place couldn’t have been much above 40 F.

With Gavuzzi and Ellis gone and Simpson slowly but steadily losing ground through walking, though he kept up a really fast pace right to the end, Dilks and Granville settled into a battle royal for position. McNamara and I were beyond their reach unless something quite unforeseen occurred, but these two were so evenly matched as runners that after the first few hours there was still less than a mile between them. Granville, who was probably physically the stronger, evidently reckoned he could outpace his rival if he stuck to hard work, and Dilks, who was a runner and no walker, was determined not to be outclassed by another American.

The duel became obvious and quite interesting. At first, when one of them stopped for a drink or anything, the other put on the pace and tried to make the most of the opportunity, but after a time they learned that nothing was to be gained like that, for it was merely squandering energy which they could ill spare. So they gave it up and instead, when one stopped the other immediately did so too, both moving on together afterwards. By this means they were able to avoid sudden spates of energy which would have knocked them out had they tried to keep it up.

After what seemed like an almost interminable stretch of time the officials announced that McNamara was nearing the hundred miles and that a new record was being set up. His time at this point was 14h. 9m. 45s., which was all the more wonderful since he had, en route, annexed the 30-mile and 40-mile indoor-track records ; in fact it was the most brilliant long-distance running I had ever seen. Before the start he and I had agreed to retire for a quick hot bath after we had completed a hundred miles, leaving the track one at a time ; and the second man was to take as long as the first, when his turn came, so as to forestall any attempt to gain by this means. A short and really hot shower at this stage is more refreshing and re-invigorating than any food or drink, probably due to the fact that it cleans out all the refuse with which prolonged

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exertion has clogged the pores of the skin. Whatever the cause the effect is almost magical, as we knew from previous experience. Just then however the photographers stepped in and asked for pictures : I suppose they wanted the public to see what men looked like after they’d completed a hundred miles on foot—perhaps they thought they’d be safer if they took one while the going was good in case we fell to pieces in the near future without finishing the job. Anyway, we were warned that two or three laps farther on we should be asked to stop at a chosen spot where the pictures could be taken, after which we could all move off again.

We were duly halted in front of a battery of camera fiends but one of the press men seemed to be in difficulties. I don’t know what was wrong and didn’t trouble to inquire afterwards, but his troubles lengthened out until we were really dismayed—it was nine minutes before we got going again. That spelt the loss of about a mile, due only to our wanting to oblige the photographer, though we certainly considered records more important than pictures of the runners.

McNamara then went off for a bath, while I travelled around with the comforting thought that in a few moments I should get mine.    But another shock was in store for both of us.    Just as he was about to return—he had been absent some five minutes—he was attacked by cramp and had to get assistance from a masseur. This caused so much delay that it was nineteen minutes before he could appear again, and when he did it was to discover that the earlier speeding in the day had to be paid for and that increasing cramp would put an end to further work.    It must have been a terrible disappointment to him.    But he kept going while—very much  against  the  grain—I  spent  a  similar  period  of nineteen minutes at my bath.    He even ran a mile or two after I returned. But he had reached his limit;  another attack, due to the enormous mileage since his earlier efforts, put an end to his hopes and he was obliged to retire.    So, quite unexpectedly, I was left alone to try for the twenty-four hour title, for I had confidently reckoned on a fierce battle with McNamara over the last twenty or thirty miles. I daren’t look at the big clock too often—I chanced it about once an hour—because I was getting very tired myself.    But I knew that if I just kept up a gentle seven an hour or thereabouts I’d  collar  the  coveted record  all  right.    When  you  get  really desperately tired you can’t keep your mind off your condition ;   it won’t answer to the helm as it does when you’re fighting fit, and I remember thinking that never again would I dream of risking such punishing discomfort though, having already undergone so much, I’d have to battle through the few remaining hours.    Even while this was passing through my mind I knew I had thought the same thing every time I’d had a really big race, and knew too that as soon as I had fully recovered from the effects I should be perfectly ready to have another and (hopefully) more successful “go” at it. But I had only one job just then, and that was to travel along with the most perfect rhythm I was capable of:  anything else and

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I might fail. In spite of being so abnormally tired it seems I was partly successful, for the local newspaper subsequently reported that it looked like “the nearest approach to perpetual motion”. Every mile seemed a weary long way—ten miles was too tiring even to be thought about. Yet I knew that if I went on and on the ten would turn up, and another ten after that, and still another, till the actual 150 was in sight. After all, it was only once in a lifetime and I had been working years to get to such a stage, so I’d just got to hang on no matter how tired I felt.

Well, that’s how things were going. I continually tried to divert my mind from the aching discomfort but wasn’t very success­ful, because will-power was weakening along with physical ability. Yet at long last there came a time when Jacques Girling informed me that I was within a mile of hundred and fifty and at that I knew for a certainty that I was safe. The news gingered me up considerably and I increased the pace to eight, then nine, and finally ten an hour in an effort to crowd a few more yards into the final total. For the last lap or two Girling was running round with me, telling me just how long we had to go, and then I heard “TIME ” and knew that at last it was all over. I had covered 152 miles 540 yards in the twenty-four hours.

I pulled up at once, but noticed that Dilks was still plugging stolidly along. Officials went after him and stopped him—he was so far gone that he had lost all sense of everything except that he had to run and keep on running. A hot bath revived him considerably and so did the news that he had managed to keep his lead of three-quarters of a mile on Granville—they ended up second and third with 117 and 116 miles and the same gap that had separated them twenty hours earlier.

Our side of the affair had turned out all right except for Gavuzzi’s misfortune ; we had annexed the records we had aimed at and McNamara had gathered in quite a few extra ones. But in spite of all Crompton’s good work and the generous assistance (absolutely free of course) of so many amateurs, the show was a financial flop and I lost about £200 over it. Yet I still think it was worth it.

The various runners, instead of the percentage of ” gate ” profits they were entitled to, had to be content with all expenses paid and a trifle of $10 (£2) apiece as a “douceur,” and within a few days they were on their way back to their respective homes.

 

Races and Training: Chapter Twelve

CHAPTER XII

AN  INDOOR  MARATHON  RACE

EL OUAFI, hailing from the Argentine, had recently won the Olympic marathon ; Joie Ray, of New York, had waltzed off with the Irish event, and both men had returned to America. I was training in the Catskill Mountains at the time, a part of New York State where there were good roads and excellent scenery. There came a letter from Hugo Quist, who had been Paavo Nurmi’s manager in his tour of the States, asking me to compete against these two men at Madison Square Garden, Boston. It suited me all right and I accepted.

I had a pretty long journey in the train to get there, and put it off until the last moment because I knew the atmosphere of a large city would have a cumulative and adverse effect on my lungs ; smoke and dust penetrate the air of all big cities and there’s no escaping them.

I was up against two of the world’s best at their own distance, not at mine ; for I had specialised consistently at fifty miles. 

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I knew, then, that my chances of a win were not too good, and of course knew that the race was to be run round an indoor track. From my point of view this was quite the worst of the whole business, for having done all my work on open roads the continual circling of a small indoor track made me giddy and actually physically sick. Still, you never know : I could at any rate try to put up a decent show and, if my luck were very much in, for I was every bit as well trained as either of my two rivals, might even win. Anyway, it was worth trying.

When we started off I was unexpectedly pleased to note that both my opponents were content to begin with a very modest pace ; in fact it was so modest that I found I was distinctly putting on the brake more than I thought wise in order to keep at their heels. This went on for two or three miles till I began to feel that if we kept it up much longer the spectators would get impatient and begin to think we were not really racing but merely—which we actually were—playing a waiting game. After about four miles therefore, I considered it would be wise to make a change by opening up to ten miles per hour ; if it took me ahead so much the better, for it might(?) give me an easier time later on.

The other two men however had no intention of letting me go, and after a single lap we were in a bunch again, though I was now in the lead. This went on for many miles until, when about half the distance had been covered, I felt the usual symptoms of giddiness and nausea, which always spoilt my running on a small track, slowly coming on. To fend it off as far as possible I reduced the pace. Not so the other two ; having disposed of me they held on to their ten an hour and after a mile or two both of them lapped me. The further I went the worse I got, and I lost a couple more laps to both of them during the next half-hour.

About this time I noticed that the pace was beginning to tell on them, for I ceased to lose ground, and before long, in spite of feeling so bad, actually began to pull up again. I still had plenty in hand, but was so groggy that I daren’t attempt to go any faster.

How greatly they had overdone their effort—they were keen rivals and had evidently been doing their utmost to ” kill ” each other—became apparent when, to my surprise, I began to lap them. But I was nearly a mile in the rear and as there was no more than a quarter of an hour to go I felt my chances of a win were slim indeed. My hopes brightened for a moment when the leader dropped into a walk and Ray went to the front, but El Ouafi soon struggled back into a trot again. No, I just couldn’t do it ; I lapped both of them and tried my best to make up for lost time, but it was too late.

Near the end Ray also took to alternate walking and running, keeping an eye on El Ouafi all the time, while I still carried on at about eight an hour. We finished with Ray in the lead, El Ouafi a fairly close second, and me a bad third. Didn’t I just wish they would challenge me to a similar race on the open road !

I gathered afterwards that both men suffered from bad blisters, which largely spoilt their running, though I felt sure that had they not kept up such a hot pace for three-quarters of the journey their troubles would have been less severe. I had no foot or leg troubles at all, but no sooner did we stop than my stomach vented its displeasure and my lunch at the same time.

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Once more I had had the lesson rubbed in—run your own race regardless of all others. Commonsense should have started me off at about 9¼  an hour and after a mile or so. when thoroughly warmed up, increased it to 9¾, taking no account of whether the others followed or left me. Ten miles per hour was my maximum racing speed ; if I wanted to exceed that it meant altering my natural stride, and any change of that would take it out of me unduly, unless it were for a very short period.

Remember, too—and this is where so many go wrong – it is a mistake in these races to start off with the pace you intend to rely on ; you should always begin a trifle below and work up quite gradually to your reasonable maximum.

There can be no doubt that had I acted more wisely I should have made a better job of this run ; even the giddiness of continual circling would probably have been somewhat mitigated, or at any rate postponed, for I should not have developed the ten miles per hour gait till later. So next time you go for a marathon remember these mistakes of mine and see they don’t spoil your chances.

 

Races and Training: Chapter Eleven

CHAPTER XI

HORSES  VERSUS  MEN

AFTER Paavo Nurmi’s record-breaking trip to America, Hugo Quist, who had arranged his tour, organised long-distance races in the States ; and for some months I worked with him to learn the ropes. One of his ideas was a six-day-and-night contest between teams of horses and teams of men—two to form a team—which was arranged to take place at Philadelphia.

There were five teams of runners and we had five teams of riders to contend against. No particular procedure was laid down and we could please ourselves as to how we carried on, whether with long periods of running or with short ones. The plan generally adopted was for one man to run for four hours on the track while his partner rested.

John Salo, the Finn who had won the second Transcontinental Footrace, and Joie Ray formed the first American team; Gavuzzi from Southampton, who had all but beaten Salo across the conti­nent, and I were partners in the British team. Among the other runners were McNamara, the hundred-mile indoor track record holder ; Granville, the Canadian walking-record holder (he was also a runner) ; Lin Dilks, who had put up the best time for hundred miles on the road in America, and others of the Transcontinental Footraces.

The course was an indoor track in the centre of which were tents where the competitors could, when they wanted to, sleep, rest or refresh as they liked. Outside this and railed off from it was the horse track wrhich had been specially prepared. I don’t know what the remuneration of the riders was, but the first two running teams were offered $500 (£100) per man to compete, and the others in proportion down to $100.

I gathered that public opinion generally favoured a walk-over for the horses ; but I, who had raced against riders on more than one occasion and knew pretty well what they could do, was quite satisfied that we could take things fairly comfortably and still emerge easy winners, but it wasn’t my business to publish that. I may say here that none of the runners betted a cent on any of their races, though we knew well enough that many of the public did so.

My confidence was based on the distance that had to be travelled. Had it been for twenty-four hours only we should almost certainly lose by a good bit ; a forty-eight hour race might have been a toss-up either way, with the balance on the side of the runners ; but when it came to a matter of hundreds of miles the horses just hadn’t a hope. What made it even more certain was that the horses were ordinary riding hacks from a local stable which were not in any way trained for such an exhausting ordeal, whereas the men, without a single exception, were.

We all arrived at the stadium rarin’ to go.” After the usual preliminaries—each of us was ” introduced ” and had to run an exhibition lap—we were lined up and given the signal to start. Salo and Gavuzzi opened the ball for the American and British teams while Joie Ray and I, after giving them a good tl once over,” went outside to a restaurant and had a good feed so as to be ready for our turn when it came four hours later. The riders were apparently in good fettle and when we returned we found them trotting steadily and already a mile or two in advance of the runners. Presently we went on to the track and our partners retired for their four-hour stretch. Always the horses increased their lead, yet we were quite unconcerned : we just kept to a steady 7½-8 miles an hour, knowing full well that we should eventually come out on top.

After twenty-four hours the riders had some fifteen miles in hand and began to take things more easily ; occasionally they’d drop into a walk fcr a few rounds. We couldn’t be sure of course, but guessed that they did so because they had to—the horses had already had more than enough of it. The walking periods became ever more frequent until, at the end of forty-eight hours the runners, without ever having altered their tactics or raced, had just about caught up.

This must have shown the stable hands what to expect, and with the permission of the authorities all the horses were withdrawn and a fresh lot substituted, though of course the public were not informed of the change. We runners didn’t mind a bit ; we still had plenty of vim and went on quite serenely. The second bunch of horses were evidently not as good as the first, which had probably been the pick of the stable, for they started tiring after only twelve hours of it, and the runners began to take the lead. It was evident that what obsessed the horses was nothing less than sheer boredom ; they could not see the object of circling and everlastingly circling that limited track. They lost heart completely and towards the end of the fourth day relapsed to a dejected walk and nothing the riders could do would snap them out of it.

The first batch of horses, which had by now enjoyed a forty-eight hour rest, were then brought back, but as they hadn’t entirely recovered from their former bout, the runners continued to pile on their lead. That was the finish so far as competition was concerned, the running teams ending up many miles to the good.

Presumably the failure of the horses had, however, its effect on the ” gate,” and for the last two nights the attendance had been so greatly reduced that the management foresaw a loss on the promotion. So after it was all over Quist called us together and explained the situation, asking us to be content to waive 25 per cent, of our earnings. I, too, pointed out that as professional runners we were dependent on promoters, and unless we met them reasonably and even generously, we could not expect them to arrange contests for us. This was so obvious that with very little discussion we all willingly agreed to accept the reduction.

It might interest you to know that the chief sufferers—physically —were the jockeys ; they told us it would take them all of a week to recover !

 

 

Races and Training: Chapter Ten

CHAPTER X

I  EARNED  MY  DEFEAT

and again recollections from my races occur to me as ( watch younger men competing, and I daresay some of the lessons I learnt will be useful to the rank and file; if they.do nothing else they may save them from perpetuating similar mistakes. I remember one marathon I made a shocking bad mess of, and judgment had a lot to do with it. I started off carefully enough and found I was going well, so well in fact that after a dozen miles ] felt I ought to be putting a gap between my chief rival, Harry Phillips of Maritzburg (Natal) and myself while I had the vim and inclination to do it. So I purposely extended a bit and before long was a hundred yards or so to the good. I didn’t look back to discover what my lead was for I had already learnt the folly, of

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that sort of thing ; it was the spectators along the route who told me the position. Yet at the time it occurred to me that the gain was not as much as I expected it to be. Phillips was a more experienced runner than I, and not much younger either—both of us were in the forties—and I’d have done well to pay more respect to his methods and conduct. He had just carried on at about the same gait without seeming to take any notice of what the other fellows were doing.

For all of a dozen miles I kept in the lead, but the score mark and Harry Phillips arrived together, and I found I could no longer-keep pace with his steady gait. I had to let him go.

Before I had gone another mile it was rubbed in again ; another man, Steytler, caught up and almost immediately left me behind. By this time I was badly tired and could do little more than crawl dejectedly at about seven miles to the hour, but not so tired that I could not curse my folly and make a note that I must never again chance things in this way.

Steytler, however, presently proved to be in even worse condition than I was, and with only a mile to go I was surprised to discover I was rapidly gaining on him. I soon passed him—he was staggering along and finally collapsed at the post—and thereby managed to secure second place, more than a mile behind Phillips. Except for the winner the condition of the competitors was deplorable : five-sixths of us had literally run ourselves to a standstill.

The mistake I made on this occasion (and, I regret to say it wasn’t the first time or the last) is still all too common ; even today more than half the runners in most long-distance events show thoroughly bad judgment. While I was fresh and fit I allowed myself to squander energy to no good purpose and failed to realise that much of it had to be conserved if I wanted to stay the course. Once a fellow is absolutely beat,” anyone with a trifle in reserve can overtake him with ease ; recovery on the spot is hopeless, and he is compelled either to drop out or to drag himself along knowing that neither excitement nor will power can add anything worthwhile to his speed. If he attempts to force things he is asking for immediate trouble or disaster, and both Steytler and I went mighty near to it that day.

We all know it’s never too late to learn, and runners evidently find the lesson as difficult as anyone else, for many of them fail time after time because they don’t assess their ability anywhere near its true standard.

This race, which by the way was in Johannesburg, reads like a complete washout, as in fact, from the runners’ point of view, it was. But to be fair to all I must point out that there were extenuating circumstances. With the exception of the winner we were all coast-level men or thereabouts, and were quite unused to the 6,000 ft. altitude of Johannesburg ; never for a moment did we realise how much difference it would make. I suppose some instinct must have warned us, for even in the early stages we were moving at less than our usual racing pace ; under normal conditions

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we (including Phillips) would have made a much better job of the event.

With this in mind, then, you might say that ignorance and lack of reasonable caution—we knew what the altitude was and had been warned that we should almost certainly find it a handicap— were the chief faults ; judgment was not so much to blame perhaps seeing we had no similar experience to work on.

You, who carry on where we left off, may profit by our failure. Every fellow who finds he can’t finish his course without real distress is playing the game that I did at Johannesburg ; he has over-rated his ability and his condition will not fail to remind him of the fact. You cannot be too careful; say what }rou like, it’s always better to end a race with a bit still in hand, even if you don’t secure a place, rather than to finish like a woe-is-me-I-am-undone ” scarecrow.

Careful work will add continually to your confidence and ability, whereas the reverse is apt to sicken you of the whole business— your physique will keep on telling you in no uncertain manner that the game isn’t worth the candle. If you persist you’ll soon come to believe that your physique is right, and that your mind is solely to blame for urging you to go on.

Caution, then, and careful mental direction must be your resolve at every race you enter for. With these you can always put up a decent show ; without them you will be no better than Steytler and I were in the marathon I’ve just described.