“To be a world-record holder in the mile, a man must have the arrogance it takes to believe he can run faster that anyone ever has at the distance; and the humility it takes to actually do it.” (Herb Elliot)

A Column By Mark Tucker- Runner’s Tribe
Herb Elliot

Running, and indeed life, can be quite a balancing act. On the one hand (if you want to excel) you firstly need to believe that you can achieve and reach the heights you have dreamt of; on the other hand, all the belief and confidence in the World (along with ability) will not give you a gold medal on a plate – you also need to put your head down and have the humility to get all the training done. That’s the core of Herb’s message in the above quote – belief (strong confidence) and humility (putting your belief into action and getting it done) are a potent combination; you can’t have one without the other if you have high hopes and goals. Herb Elliot was a perfect example of this: his confidence and belief in what he could achieve were unshakeable; his training tough and uncompromising (I can visualise him now striding up a Portsea sand dune with a look of pure determination!). The ultimate reward for all this was a gold medal and World record in the 1500m at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games (and 55 years later his 3.35.6 still holds up strongly).

Craig Mottram, while not an Olympic gold medallist, has had an excellent running career by anyone’s standards. World Championship bronze medallist in the 5000m, World cup gold medallist in the 3000m (twice) along with being the current National record holder in everything from the mile to the 5000m (just a lazy 12.55.76 if you don’t mind!) – impressive is an understatement. He also has the ideal combination of belief and humility.

I was lucky enough to see this first-hand. Back in 1998 we both competed in the Australian Cross Country Championships in Canberra – he in the U/20 schools division, I in the U/20 (non school) division – the race was combined that year. At that time Craig ‘Buster’ Mottram was relatively unknown – a fellow Geelong runner who was transitioning from being a successful junior triathlete into an elite distance runner. So I was somewhat surprised when one of the other runners in the race informed me that Mottram – who to my knowledge was running in his first Australian Cross-Country Championship – was asking around about who the top two or three runners in the race were (Martin Dent and Alastair Stevenson being amongst them) as he planned to go out with the leaders with the intention of winning the race; the nerve of the man!

Come race day and he stuck true to his word – being in front of me for most of the race before pride took over and I made myself pass him; if I couldn’t win the race I was at least going to beat a ‘triathlete’ and be the first runner to finish from Geelong! I ended up 4th (Martin Dent won convincingly) with Mottram 6th overall but winning the National Schools division (just 8 seconds behind me) – The first and only time I ever beat the Big Mzungu! (On a side note, if I knew how successful Mottram was going to be, maybe – subconsciously – I would have just let him go and thus finished behind him?: the power of the mind!)

That’s a big part of why Mottram was so successful – his belief in himself was enormous and he knew what he wanted: to beat anyone he raced regardless of their credentials. In combination with smart and hard training and a huge talent you get an amazing runner such as Mottram. Simple isn’t it! Maybe not; but we can all learn something from Elliot and Mottram to achieve our own running goals – believe, aim high and … put your head down and get the training done!

Craig Mottram: Melbourne Track Classic 2012: Photo JP/RT

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