Did you know there are some 300,000 copper rivets in the Statue of Liberty? The Great Wall of China is constructed with 3.9 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) bricks. And Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission was a product of the work of no less than 400,000 people.
What does this have to do with running, you ask? Well, when we think of the Statue of Liberty or the Great Wall of China or that one giant leap for mankind, we often look at the achievement itself. But the support structures needed to give us these amazing achievements are often overlooked. Similarly, in running, we tend to focus on the race and the running itself; in reality, it's the little things that allow us to achieve big things.
I've often said that training is like stacking paper. If you stack enough pieces, you can go to the moon. The problem is many runners are all about the big things but they neglect the supplemental aspects of training. How would the Statue of Liberty have turned out if they had used only a few thousand rivets? Not so great, right? Then why do we neglect the "support structure" to our running?
Over the years, I’ve observed that elite runners and top level running programs pay attention to detail. This past week reaffirmed that tenet for me. At the FLEET FEET Cross Country Classic, it was interesting to see how the different teams went about their business. Every team has its own way of doing things. That being said, it was easy to note that the consistently successful programs were dedicated to the little things (the support structure) before, during, and after the race. For example, the Festus boys won the Arnold meet, but almost missed the awards ceremony because they were out running their cool down. Heck, almost half an hour after the last bus left, they were still out there stretching and doing the maintenance work needed to build a stellar season.
Another perfect example of this is Meb Keflezighi, whom FLEET FEET was fortunate enough to host at our Training Center in Des Peres this week. Everyone knows Meb as the Boston and New York City marathon champion and silver medalist in the Olympic Games. But few people saw Meb doing his drills: stretching, hydrating, and refueling, even after a very short and easy 3-mile run. The run is only a small part of the work that goes into being a champion. Meb is meticulous about doing the little things (and doing them correctly) so he can get the most out of what he has to give. If he misses a rivet, the whole building could come crashing down on race day or even before he gets to the start line.
Many of us are in the middle of training for our fall races. Now is not the time to think big. It's time to think small. Make sure you're not skipping the supplemental training that allows you to be successful simply because you think it's not as important as the run. The little things add up to big things. Just keep stacking that paper. Who knows where it can take you!
Good Luck and Happy Racing!