Q: Please settle an argument I had with my teammates: Is knowing about running's past important for the runners of today? If so why is it important and how does it help athletes now? Thanks. N.B.

A: Assuming you are on the correct side of this argument, just tell them who Emil Zatopek was. In case you don't know, he won the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races in the 1952 Olympic Games in Olympic record times and didn't stop there. He then ran the marathon and won that, too, also in an Olympic record time. I say again: That's three golds. Three Olympic records. The 5, 10 and marathon--that should give them pause, followed by a gulp and, if they had any respect at all for what that means, they'll remain silent and wait to learn more.

But they won't.

With today's American society SUVmentality of no boundaries for our God-given right to obscene mass consumption, no respect and been-there-done-that-saw-it-on-TV, I doubt you'll be able to get your team mates to appreciate just how amazing this feat was. It will never be done again. They don't make them that tough anymore. He even did it without headphones, can you imagine? No high tech running gear. No specialized training facility at Stanford (and no preppy red sweaters to tie around his neck) or Boulder. AND (gasp!), no energy bars.

The only real valid excuse your team mates will have in appreciating runners from the past is that they are Americans. If they don't appreciate and truly try to comprehend what it took to do what Zatopek did, you have your answer why American distance running is so pathetic and why it will never be any good. Too many people playing video games, stuffing their faces looking for their channel changers while real training takes place in Europe. The U.S. will never be any good in distance running because there are too many elitist idiots who don't appreciate who real runners like Zatopek were and try to understand how they trained. The reality is, very few could even finish his workouts, which is why they get beat by the Europeans time and time again. Steve Prefontaine was the last one to take those guys on and darn near beat them. Frank Shorter was the last one who did, back in 1972. That attitude has been gone since Pre died 1975.

Somehow, Americans think that because we are Americans we must be the best. There are entire legions of American runners all waiting to grow up and get beat by real runners who appreciate who past runners are, that is if we can qualify to step on to the same track in the first place. You might ask your friends how many runners the U.S. mens and woman's teams sent to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Ask them to look that one up.

Any questions?

The Rage

PS Not that anyone of them will be interested, here's who Emil Zatopek was (He died in 2000): http://www.runningtimes.com/issues/01mar/zatopek.htm and for what he said see the 10kTruth Quotes by Emil at http://www.10ktruth.com/the_quotes/emil.htm

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10kTruth.com is a place for runners who have the attitude to train harder and smarter, who want to race faster and stronger, to better their race times and lower the chance of injury. The Rage and Manciata answer running and training questions with their own unique insight and spew. You'll also find running advice and inspirational quotes by sports legends and others who epitomize the spirit of 10k Truth.