I have previously made reference to this quote, by Lance Armstrong:
Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.
I believe that there are not many people as well qualified as Lance Armstrong to make such statements, but it was obviously visible at the 2011 Athletics World Championships in Daegu. Mo Farah has been a good athlete for about a decade. He has taken a long time to make the step up to become the UK’s number one distance runner and subsequently progressed further and demonstrated that he can compete against some of the best.
But for all of the personal goals which athletics allows you to achieve, running fast times and winning championship races are two very different practices. Mo Farah went into the 10 000m last Sunday as the fastest UK distance runner in history, as well as having beaten all of his obvious close competitors in the earlier parts of the year. The race went predominantly according to plan for 23½ of the 25 laps and, with 600m to go, he accelerated exactly as he had done throughout the season with much success. This video shows the outcome.
He was tracked by a runner whom he hadn’t competed against previously and was beaten in the final 100m.
With tired legs, it would have been easy to go home with the silver medal, and prepare for next year’s Olympics. But Mo Farah demonstrated that he is not a quitter by trying to rectify the situation at the earliest possible opportunity – and fitness allowed him to run on Wednesday and successfully qualify for the 5000m final the following Sunday.
Again, he ran the race sensibly for the first 11 of the 12½ laps. This video shows the outcome.
Contrast the difference in the two final laps. The latter is a demonstration of the discipline, mental strength and intelligence required to successfully compete at such a level; it almost makes the first appear naive and immature. He made a mistake, learnt from it, put it into practice and reaped the benefits.
So, as we start a new academic year, what better message can be sent to students? Work hard, learn from your mistakes, and you will be rewarded. And as for teachers, we can follow the same advice. Good luck to all.
NB. Mo Farah gets my vote for BBC Sports Personality of the year.
NB2. This could also form the basis of another (teaching) blog about the necessity and quality of rewards, but that will have to wait for another day.
NB3. For those who want to see the race in more detail, check http://athletics.channel4.com/