Watching a sprint finish has you on the edge of your seat. You are not sure which member of the pack will lunge ahead in the final stride to snatch the winning place. Over the course of an 800m or 1500m event -” or better still, a steeplechase -” watch the leader move from favourite to outside chance, only to see both overcome by another runner who just -˜appeared’ in the final stretch.

Distance running is a world all of its own. As a self-confessed non-runner -” I am determined to do a marathon before I die, but at current performance it will be in a hospital bed pushed by four swarthy nurses -” I don’t get it. It’s not that I don’t want to, it is just so lonely out there. I’m told you can run and talk, hence it can be very social.

Reality is very different of course, it’s a lie. I’m good for the first 1000m or so then it’s over. Talk or run, mutually exclusive.

The world’s best runners have the makeup for it. Sprinters who cover 100m faster than I can inhale have a very high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres. Marathon runners like me have the opposite -” a greater percentage of slow twitch fibres and the ability to take in large amounts of oxygen. Kenyans who run two hours plus a sneeze for 42kms are running machines.

It is the mental toughness of runners, not their long gorgeous legs and cute butts, that interests me. To be a good runner you have to like yourself, and your own company. You spend a lot of time together after all.

If you run 30km a week, you could develop the next E=MC2 in about 12 months and mentally write the text to explain it to the world.

Runners must be self-motivated, in tune with their physical abilities, and preferably have poor fashion sense -” men in tights is good in movies but not in the 21st century.

Running achievements, like the sport, are for the individual. With the exception of a few world champion sprinters, you aren’t rewarded with sponsorship, accolades and media interviews. It is all about you, the road and the clock.

The psychological battle the runner fights is not against opponents -” most often it is against themselves. Breaking through the wall in distance running and -˜cruising’ home often results in a win or personal best time, regardless of others’ performances. It is the final kilometre that is always the hardest, no matter how long the race.

info: Run with world champions of all ages, join Sydney Frontrunners to begin running for fitness, fun and meeting a great group of fellow runners: www.teamsydney.org.au

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