Before you read any further, watch this video of the 1972 Olympic 800m Finals
This was obviously an incredible feat by Dave Wottle. It struck me that Wottle’s tactics here are not something that just happened, but something that he practiced (in fact, in the trials leading up to this race, he did the same thing!). To have the confidence to sit back, and let the lesser athlete think he has taken control, knowing that you have the ability to win on your terms, to race your race, is the definition of athletic excellence if I ever saw it! The level of patience (or lack thereof in the case of the other 7 finalists) shown in this race is what won gold.
Everyone who pursues anything in life seriously at a relative high level — and by “relative,” I am referring to the relativity of ones own abilities — understands that one moment does not make or break this pursuit. Athletics, and triathlon specifically, is no different. One interval, one workout, one training cycle, one season: none of these carries enough momentum by itself to seriously effect the outcome of an athlete’s race. Certainly any one of these could become the catalyst for greatness; a launching point. But it will not define, nor will it become the pinnacle of the athlete’s pursuit. It is the combination of these elements of common practice, pursued over time that make us what we become, and allow us to reach our potential.
What I am trying to say here is that to be at the top of your game, it will take time, and usually a lot more time than you can conceive. So, as an athlete in pursuit of becoming the best athlete you can hope to be, an understanding must be formed in your everyday sense of being that, only when a relentless pursuit of one’s goals over time is accomplished, will you reach your optimum abilities. In other words, we, as athletes, must be patient. Patience, in my mind, is amongst the essential qualities, along with hard work, discipline, and, of course talent, that, when combined, create a perfect storm for success. Patience must be practiced, on par with threshold intervals, long runs, strength work, speed work, and every other type of workout or interval that an athlete practices, in order to improve. If you want to reach your goals, you must be patient.