“Take a pitiful organism, any weak, pitiful organism. Say a freshman. Make it lift, or jump or run. Let it rest. What happens? A little miracle. It gets a little better.”

-Bill Bowerman

Kenny Moore arrived at University of Oregon a mediocre runner. Eager to live up to the University’s already-storied legends, he mimicked the training of Arthur Lydiard’s gold medallists (the only runners to consistently beat Oregon’s athletes). He flogged himself through hundred mile weeks, then got sick, then ran more hundred mile weeks, then got sick again, all through his freshman and sophomore year.

One day Oregon’s coach, Bill Bowerman, fed up with Kenny Moore’s endless, useless cycle, grabbed the frail athlete by the neck whispered in his ear that he would not run a single step outside of Bowerman’s supervision for three weeks. Moore relented, mostly out of fear, and dropped his mileage drastically. Every morning, he would jog three miles along the grass. Every other evening, he would run a workout with the team. Aside from that, he rested.

Three weeks later, Moore lines up for a two mile race against the reigning NCAA champion, Dale Story. Story goes out like a madman, and Moore trails by seventy yards after the first mile. Then Moore, in response to the roar of the crowd, reels Story in and savagely outkicks him, ripping twenty seven seconds from his previous best time.

Initially, Moore trained by compulsion, by quota. He trained hard and raced poorly, perhaps taking solace in the effort marshaled over weeks. Bowerman had to strangle him to convince him that the point of training is to race. If your training negatively impacts the race, then what are you training for?

It is ok to kill yourself, insomuch as it allows you to come back stronger.

My coach has a tattoo running up his sleeve, an ascending, jagged line. Unlike most coaches, who will say “there is no secret,” he likes to say “this is the secret,” then flash the tattoo. Rise a bit and fall a bit, rise a bit and fall a bit, but falling a little bit less than you rise. Do a workout or a race and you trash your body, give it time to recover and it comes back stronger, but only if you give it time to recover. Rinse and repeat until you achieve the desired results.

Greatness requires discomfort, but finite discomfort, specific discomfort, useful discomfort. Running hurts. Workouts hurts more. Racing hurts the most. Recover accordingly.