As a young runner, I really didn’t know much about racing, training, people in the sport etc. I guess I grew up in a country town playing hockey, backyard sport and watching football etc on TV. As I got into running in my late teens, I really enjoyed the challenge of races, and learnt how important it was, to think outside the box sometimes, in order to get out that awesome run. So I’m taking about taking risks in races, when the time is right. Obviously I don’t mean going out at a suicide pace in the first couple of laps in say a 5km, but I’m talking about having the guts to try something you may not have tried before, and the confidence to back yourself. Obviously you should listen to your coach and you should trust him/her 100% with their advice and follow it. But you shouldn’t be afraid of failure either. Sometimes it’s good to lose some races, in order to get out that brilliant run in the next race.
For example in the World Cross Country Championships in 2003, I made a really strong move about 500-600m out from the finish and was coming 3rd right up until about 40 metres to go. From there, I thought “I am going to be our first medallist…..” I was pumped. Then, I saw the shadows of 2 Africans either side of me coming up. I had nothing left. I couldn’t respond. I ended up coming 5th. After that race, (and yes 5th at World Cross is awesome don’t get me wrong) I couldn’t stop thinking about how close I was to a medal and the risk I took, and how I could have raced better. So the next year, at World Cross in Brussels, I stayed in the pack until I knew I was strong enough to make my move, and continue to run harder and harder to the finish – no one was going to catch me. And I won. It hurt like hell but after the 2003 result, I was determined to not do that again and had learnt from that for 2004.
So I guess, think about taking a risk from time to time in races – even if you fail, you’ll learn from your mistakes. The best runners, pick themselves up, come out and run better the next time. Why just run “safe” races all the time? If you don’t have a go, you’ll never know.