Going the distance

Lessons to be learned from Olympic greats

By Edward T. Creagan, M. D. September 3, 2016

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The Olympic gold medal continues to signify the epitome of athletic greatness.

Although the modern games have been tainted by bureaucratic bungles, governmental interference, and cheating through the use of performance enhancing drugs, the games continue to have a certain allure.

As we examine the lives of the gold medal winners, especially in track and field with which I'm familiar having completed 14 marathons, there are three consistent themes from which each of us can profit as our lives unfold.

Some wise poet made the comment, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." This is so true, so what can we learn from those few who have won the gold medal, especially in track and field? Well, here goes.

  • A fanatical, maniacal, almost diabolical hunger, desire, and tenacity to be the best in the world. Each made a psychological covenant to be all in. Nothing short of a gold medal would satisfy that inner hunger.
  • A willingness to do whatever it would take to win. In almost every case, the athletes left their communities, their countries, their comfort zone, and went to a relatively obscure area where they would not be recognized and could train in isolation. Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, is from Jamaica. He trained in obscurity. He had a security guard, a masseuse, his strength and conditioning coach, and his mentor fine tuning his craft. Many East African distance runners have left home and trained in U.S. mountain states.
  • Nothing was left to chance. Each of these performers visualized how the event would unfold. They clearly knew the tactics and strategies of their adversaries, and they put themselves in a space to bring home the gold.

They were willing to pay an incredible price that most of us could not fathom to win the gold medal. Most of us don't have their tenacity, talent, or resources, but we are well advised to follow those characteristics if we wish to become "the best in show."


Edward T. Creagan, M. D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Sept. 03, 2016