Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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Galen Rupp vs. Bob Schul

For those of you who think I am obsessed with old school running history you are mostly right, I am interested in this stuff.  However, I am trying to use these stories and video clips to frame what is happening in London in specific and in the current distance running scene more generally.

That having been said, will London 2012 be an echo of Tokyo 1964?  In 1964 Billy Mills won the 10,000m and in a much lesser know race Bob Schul won the 5,000m and Bill Dellinger (later the track coach at Oregon) got the bronze.   The U.S. also had top five finishers in the 800, 1500, and 3000m steeplechase.  So, on the men’s side, the U.S. has done well so far in London and good places in the 5000m and marathon over the weekend make it possible for the overall results to be close to those seen in Tokyo.

The clip below is of the finish of the race and is a who’s who of distance running in the middle 1960s.  The race includes Ron Clarke, Kip Keino and a couple of other all-time greats.  Has there ever been a stronger field?

 

Click here for video if needed.

 

The Tokyo 5000m race is also important as a history lesson about training philosophies.  Schul who finished first was almost exclusively interval trained.  By this I mean interval training almost every day, twice per day.  The books are out of print, but information about his workouts can be found in the terrific “How They Train” books by Fred Wilt and also on Schul’s webpage.   Wilt’s books are a gold mine.

Second was Harald Norpoth of Germany who was an early disciple of what came to be known as high mileage long slow distance or LSD style training.  Third was Dellinger who used a mixed approach, that included continuous runs, intervals and hill running.  Of the three what Dellinger did is most similar to what a majority of elite runners do now.  So, the history of modern training philosophies is largely captured on the medal stand in Tokyo.

This brings me back to Rupp and the 2012 5000m.  He has the ninth fastest personal best in the field at just under 12:59.   A number of the other runners have broken 12:50.  However if you plug Rupp’s 26:48 personal best 10,000m into an equation that predicts times in other events you get a predicted best of 12:51, so Rupp starts the race in a competitive position.   He also has a strong finishing kick, his confidence should be high, and usually Olympic finals start slowly.

Whoever wins, let’s hope it is a race for the ages like 1964.

 

 

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