Coach Mike Mead


Time is on Your Side!

During my existence on this orb we call “earth,” I have become perturbed by professional athletes who want to be considered “entertainers.”  I have a problem with that thinking when it comes to professional sports in general.

Are athletic competitions entertainment?  Yes, sporting events are to some degree entertaining, but the athletes themselves are NOT entertainers.

Professional sports have evolved into entertainment events, like the Super Bowl, that have injected entertainment (cheerleaders, dancers, halftime shows, etc.) into the actual sporting event to attract the casual fan to attend or watch.  I do not know how the participants can stay focused with all of the distractions!

There is a distinct difference between entertainment and athletic competition!

Entertainment -- whether it be a music performance, a play, a movie, even a “reality” TV show – involves a consorted effort of all involved (support staff and talent) to produce a work or story where all involved know the outcome.

Athletic competition involves a group who (coaches, support staff, and athletes) come together with the common goal to defeat their opponent.  Everyone involved follows an action plan, but no one knows the outcome until everything during the competition has played out.

In essence, athletes who say they are entertainers are telling me they know the outcome and that means the athletic competition is fixed or fake!

You can’t fake or fix a foot race for the lone variable -- time.  Tick, tick, tick, tick!

The great thing about running is that time holds everyone in check.  Time is the ultimate performance measure of honesty and greatness.  In team sports, there are grandiose arguments of who are the all-time greats.  In professional basketball, enthusiasts debate whether Lebron James is better than Michael Jordan.  Others argue whether James and Jordan are better than Bill Russell.

In women’s tennis, many fans make the case that Serena Williams is the greatest in her sport.  In professional golf, is Tiger Woods or Jack Nicholas the all-time best?  There are too many variables to come to a definitive answer.  It makes for great sports debate, but no fair or sound conclusions.

In the sport of running, it all comes down to the clock and who finishes the fastest.  Time is the measurement of effort.  At one time, running a four-minute mile was a barrier many men failed to break until one Roger Bannister became the first to accomplish the feat.  These days, it is pretty commonplace that collegiate and even some high school-aged runners surpass the four-minute mile mark.  It is still a valid mark that measures a runner’s greatness, but now there are male athletes who can run that pace for two and three miles! I hope in my lifetime to see a woman surpass the four-minute mile standard.

Fans to running, whether it is track & field, road racing, or cross country, may be disappointed on occasion when runners do not challenge the clock.  This is most common in track & field at championship meets like the NCAA’s or Olympic Trials.  Fans will be excited to watch a race like the 800m, 1,500m, or 5,000m events, but then the race starts out pedestrian and turns into an all-out sprint the last lap which was the case at this year’s U.S. trials.

Tick, tick, tick, tick!

The clock doesn’t lie!  Time marches on!  Running involves competitor-versus-competitor, but time can enhance the outcome.  Some of my fastest efforts came against weak competitive fields.  Perhaps I should have selected a more competitive field for faster times!  One does not always have the opportunities to pick the right race, so time is always at play when the competition may not be a determining factor.

As we approach another high school and collegiate cross country season this month, time is much tougher to be a valid measure of performance because of variables such as weather (heat), course difficulties (hills), and course conditions (mud).  Cross Country is a team sport that emphasizes finish position more than time.  Team ties in college cross country are broken by individual head-to-head finishes, not by team time.  The clock is still a valid measure of success in the sport of cross country, but team comes first!

Time is a great measure for individual improvement.  I have run most of my life without a coach, mainly following my formative high school and college years when I was fortunate to have good coaching.  Before, during, and since having coaches, time has been my measure to monitor my progress.

I no longer train for competitive racing, but I continue to time my runs.  Yes, my times are becoming slower, but time continues to remain my standard in measuring effort.  Whether you have a coach or not, whether you have a training partner or not, if you are striving to become a faster runner time is on your side!  Just don’t let it get the best of you and use it as your guide to running success!

On your marks…tick, tick, tick, tick…