In the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, running coach Sam Mussabini tells Harold Abrahams, “you can’t put in what God’s left out.” The implication is that you’re either born with the natural talent to be fast, or you’re not.
On the surface, this quote seems to imply that if you’re not fast now, then you’re never going to be, which is more discouraging than getting outkicked to the finish by a senior citizen. The quote is far from inspirational; in fact, it may be the worst thing any coach has ever told an athlete, with the exception of whatever it is that Marty Schottenheimer used to tell his teams prior to playoff games.
What you need to understand is that Sam Mussabini was talking to an Olympic medal hopeful in Harold Abrahams and when you reach the level of Olympic medal hopeful this is probably a true statement. You do have to have some natural ability and talent to complement the training and hard work that you’ve put in. However, it is not true for you, assuming of course that there are no Olympic medal hopefuls out there reading my opinions on running, and really, why would there be? Those of us mere mortal runners can always be better. There’s always something we can “put in” to become faster. Usually what we need to put in is more miles or faster miles, which means it’s not always appealing or easy but the speed is there to be had.
I want to encourage you not to ever believe that you’ve reached your full potential as a runner. Don’t buy into the idea that there is something in your genetic makeup that is limiting how fast you can be, because the chances are pretty good that you’re not at that limit yet. You can be faster. It’s not true that when they were giving out velocity you thought they said animosity and asked for very little. Don’t allow yourself to use the excuse that God left something out when he put you together. As excuses go, that one’s pretty lame, especially when you consider that there are so many more creative excuses that you can use.
No, Sam Mussabini wasn’t talking to you. But if it’s quotivation that you’re looking for, you might be interested in the following John Steinbeck inspired quote: “You can’t make a racehorse out of a pig, but you can make a very fast pig.” Implying that you readers are pigs, albeit fast ones, is just one of the many reasons that I imagine the Olympic medal hopefuls are not interested in my opinions. Many of us will never be thoroughbreds, but don’t let that deter you from setting your sights on being the fastest swine in your age group at your next race. Remember, average runners train at a pace they’ve already mastered, great runners train a little faster.
Pictured above: Actor Ian Holm as Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire
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