A Painful Love

Being in the fitness industry, you would consider it is a given that I like sports and you would be right, I do like sport. Though I like sport and enjoy watching certain sports, I am not a lover of sport like some of my friends and peers. I, of course, being a kickboxing instructor, enjoy and appreciate combat sports. I know what it is to face someone in a ring, what getting punched feels like, what is required, fitness wise, to be a fighter.
Training to fight is hard, but, like anything repeated often, one becomes accustomed to the training. It is still hard, but it never feels undoable. The same cannot be said of the other sort of training I have done the most over the past two decades; athletic training. Training to sprint, as I have done, when done properly, is brutal.
Track training is not a thing most people do if they are not blessed with fast twitch fibres or incredible endurance. People go running, five or six kilometres, a comfortable, steady pace. They will definitely improve their fitness, maybe even lose some weight if they need to, but training to be an athlete, a track athlete specifically, is some of the hardest training I have ever done.
Today at my workplace – I work at a gym and track – there was a track meet. Four athletic clubs, athletes of all ages, competing. Now for a sport that is well known to most who have a passing interest in sport, even if the majority of athletes are not household names, their disciplines are well known. From the hundred metres right through to the ten thousand metres, most have witnessed athletes racing over some distance.
What most don’t witness and what I alluded to earlier, is the dedication and effort that goes into becoming even an adequate athlete. Other sports have had documentaries or elements of their training schedules are well known. In most sport, regardless of the level, once it is done competitively the training becomes necessarily hard. For athletics, track racing, there are a lot of elements that go into the training. Weight training, plyometric training, technique drills, flexibility, all of this is can be seen in other sports as well, with training diversity becoming the norm as opposed to the unusual.
It is the actual running, sprinting, doing the laps, that really hurts. Training to do the thing you want to do and knowing that it is the actual doing of it – racing in training – that really hurts. In other sports, even combat sports, the doing of the sport may be hard and challenging but, for myself anyway, the sparring or fighting was almost easy compared to the circuits, drills and conditioning.
With sprinting – my running of choice – the doing is a gruesome pleasure. The training is never just one run. It is multiple runs and if you do them properly, running hard, they hurt. A lot. Unlike other sports, unless you are one of the blessed exceptional talents – and that is, in the world of human speed, fleeting – running, racing does not get any easier.
To be a track athlete, if you are not amongst the tiny minority of super talented people who compete for Olympic, Commonwealth and World medals, you have to really love the sport. Really, really love it. The lack of money in the sport and the low profile it has in comparison to other mainstream sports means that to commit to being a track athlete, or even a field athlete, throwing, or jumping, it is not because you want to get rich or famous. There are much easier ways to get rich or well known.
The commitment of the men and women, both young and not so young, giving their all, some running in races where they were hopelessly outclassed but pushing themselves on anyway, the effort there for all to see, is inspiring. Anyone who has ever raced or even just run further or for longer or faster than they thought was possible, knows the pain of a track athlete. To do it repeatedly, week after week, month after month, for years there has to be some kind of masochistic yearning for misery or love of the sport. It’s probably a little of both.


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