Tim Noakes says it’s cowardice!
I have always stopped (way) shy of really pushing my body. My mantra is a firm “No Pain, No Pain”. Intelligence or cowardice? Intelligence, of course, IMNSHO.
. . . . Noakes tells the central-governor story in a narrative form that’s almost, well … almost readable. I’m not saying the paper is easy-going, certainly not for the faint-of-heart. And I’m sure there are vast parts of it that I don’t understand—it appears to have about 150 references, many of them from the last year or two of research.
Still, the quotes from great athletes are always entertaining. Roger Bannister says: “The great barrier is the mental hurdle.” Former marathon world record holder Derek Clayton says: “The difference between my world record and many world class runners is mental fortitude. I ran believing in mind over matter.”
Apparently Noakes does as well. In the provocative last section of his paper, he writes that the “illusionary” symptoms of fatigue are what separates the marathon winner from the runners-up. The first time I read this section, I couldn’t help but think about the people with illusionary thoughts who are often locked up in mental wards. Of course, Noakes isn’t saying that fast runners are crazy. Only that their thoughts are illusionary in the sense that they “are entirely self-generated by each athlete’s brain and so are unique to each individual.”
Noakes closes by quoting Vince Lombardi, who said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Noakes believes, however, that Lombardi got things backwards. Noakes writes: “My unproven hypothesis is that in the case of a close finish, physiology does not determine who wins. Rather somewhere in the final section of the race, the brains of the second, and lower placed finishers, accept their respective finishing positions and no longer challenge for a higher finish.” The winner’s brain simply doesn’t give in.
In other words, according to Noakes, cowardice produces fatigue.
Sadly, I believe him. My brain explains to me in firm, no-nonsense terms that it is pointless pushing any harder and in fact it’s time to take a short break. And I always obey.