Hello Athletics Exclusive readers
This is my first blog so I better introduce myself. I’m a 21 yr. old distance runner from Melbourne, Victoria, who began the sport of distance running as a youngster via the Marcellin College cross country team, who just so happened to be the dominant school in Victoria in this particular field. The groups Sunday runs were and still are led through the hilly terrain of Melbourne’s northern suburbs and I have to say I loved the openness of where we ran and was enthralled by the man doggedly leading us up every hill despite being in his mid 40’s.
Johnny Meagher, the teams coach, was this wiry man, freakishly fit, whose passion for the sport was infectious and made every training through what felt like mountainous terrain feel like a challenge,where pain was not something to be feared but something that should wet your appetite in anticipation and in a sadistic kind of way excite you.
Your values nearly always align with what you’ve been exposed to at an early age, so it’s no surprise that the runners I began to idolise and align myself with were of a similar ilk to Johnny. Over more fancied and faster names in Australia I channeled the story of Brad Camp, a nuggety marathoner who competed at the Seoul Olympics. As Johnny describes, he had limited speed or track ability but managed to run a 2.10 marathon on the Gold Coast in 1989, a course record which stood for over two decades. Of more well known runners, the achievements and character of Rob De Castella and Steve Moneghetti were always at the forefront of my mind. I didn’t want to be the fastest, I didn’t dream of outsprinting someone down the home straight, I saw the champion as the person who could break the other after a long and wearying battle across any terrain.
This background becomes relevant when I tell you I competed in the Chiba Ekiden relays in Japan this week past, representing Australia for the first time. With plenty of time in the days leading up to the competition to contemplate what this meant and how I should approach my leg (a lack of wi-fi certainly helped this), I found myself thinking a lot about how I wanted to perform in my first outing in the green and gold. I didn’t know the 10km course I was to run very well, and was told it was hilly and not conducive to a fast time, so specific performance goals went out the window.
What I kept thinking was that I wanted to create a mindset and attitude that I could use to approach any opportunity I would ever get in the green and gold, and be able to perform admirably in spite of any obstacle thrown my way. Rather than let my ‘gameplan’ become over complicated by the worry of the many unknowns that came with my first international race, what I came up with is simple, because I’d been practising it since I first started running; be as determined and resilient at all times, whether the situation is good or bad, to fight as hard as I did when as a kid I desperately wanted to prove myself to be as tough as the man i saw as the ultimate ‘tough’ man, Johnny Meagher. Basically, I set myself the standard of trying to mirror the attitude so clearly visible on the faces of guys like De Castella or Moneghetti if ever you watch some good old grainy youtube footage of their triumphs in the 80’s and 90’s.
I managed to hold onto this mindset on a relay leg where I was marooned by myself, with know one visible in front of me and no sense of pressure behind, but where I still carried the responsibility of ensuring I completed my leg as swiftly as possible for the teams chances. My performance was solid rather than spectacular, but I was content in the knowledge that my effort was worthy of someone in an Australian singlet. If I keep this attitude moving forward, hopefully there will be more moments in the green and gold to be proud of.