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BRITT’S SCHOOL

International ultrarunner Robbie Britton has some lessons from the frontline

WIN OR LEARN

If you’ve never had a bad race, you’re not trying hard enough.

One of the best ways to improve your ultrarunning is to get out there, make some mistakes and – this is the key part – actually learn from them. Making the same mistakes over and over again is not a good thing and it doesn’t make you experienced. It makes you an idiot.

Sometimes it may take a couple of instances for a lesson to really sink, but trying to learn from every experience is absolutely vital.

As a coach, you don’t wish a bad race upon any athlete you work with, but if it does happen it can become a valuable learning experience. If you have a bad race, or even DNF, as soon as it has happened there is nothing you can do about it. It’s in the past so now we make it a positive.

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About Men's Running

We all think we’re giving 100% in races. But watching some elite athletes, their faces contorted in late-race agony, I can’t help but ask myself: how hard am I really trying? In Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It? – a brilliant book with a toe-curlingly bad title – he writes about our ‘unreachable physical limit’. That’s not to say we are all super-athletes of unlimited potential. Quite the opposite: we are all wimps unwilling to break free from our mind-forged manacles. It is not the body that slows us down, but the brain. The bravest athletes – the Prefontaines, Radcliffes and Brownlees – get closer to their physical limit than most. The rest of us? My guess is that we rarely realise more than 80% of our physical potential. Yet we can, with consistent training and iron-willed determination, walk a little further along those hot coals. Perhaps not as far as Radcliffe or Brownlee, but further than we’ve ever gone before. It’s a theme that David Smyth explores further in the month’s ‘Suffer club’ article on page 60, speaking with some of these athletes about how they’re able to push themselves to their very limits. So next time you find yourself in a race, telling yourself the same old lie that you’re trying your hardest, be brave and ask yourself honestly: can I give more? The answer is, inevitably, yes.