Human Limits

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

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Where is Herb Elliott When You Need Him?

The 1500m (metric mile) final for men was held last night and won by Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria in a time of 3:34.08   Leonel Monzano of the US was second and Matthew Centrowitz, also from the U.S. was fourth.  A couple of days ago I asked if Galen Rupp’s silver in the 10,000m was a start of something for U.S. distance running or a one off event.  It is way too soon to tell, but perhaps there is cause for optimism.

Makhloufi’s time was about 8 seconds off the world record (3:26).  By Olympic Standards it was typical of recent Olympic 1500m finals.  These are almost always relatively tactical affairs with a slow first couple of laps while the kickers wait for the last lap or so to make a move. Since 1988 the winning time has been between ranged from 6-11seconds slower than the world record.

No world record for the 1500m has been set at the Olympics since 1960 when the great Australian Herb Elliot did it with a 3:35:6.  Elliott, who was from Perth, Western Australia, never lost a race as an adult and unlike many of his competitors he focused on what might be called naturalistic training vs. the intensive interval training that was popular at the time.

Among other things he was doing a lot of barefoot running in the late 1950s.  He was also coached by the unorthodox Percy Cerutty who advocated all sorts of things including a philosophical approach toward running and training as a form of self expression.  I am attaching a link to an interview with Elliott about Cerutty and the clip below is from a French newsreel on his techniques.  Thanks go to Yvonne Hubmayr, who is also a native of Perth for sending me these links.


Click here to view video.


Some would argue that Elliott was so talented the type of training he did probably did not matter as long as he did enough of something.  I would argue that the real message is that we might all benefit from his “no-tech” approach.   This is true not only in our exercise and training programs but for life in general.  We are surrounded by technology is it making us more or less human?

The next clip of Elliott is by Bud Greenspan.   Watching Elliott lay it all on the line raises the question of what the rest of us are waiting for.



Click here to view video.


One Response to “Where is Herb Elliott When You Need Him?”

  1. August 12th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Is High Technology Necessary Everywhere? « D2 Ventures says:

    […] lesson was reinforced to me this week when reading Michael Joyner’s Human Limits blog on Herb Elliott.  Briefly, in his words, here’s the […]

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