"At the Olympic games, a 60-something-year-old man, rail-thin, with a full head of white hair, took to the practice track adjacent to the main stadium and commenced to run as hard as he could.
The gangly elderly man grimaced and strained to complete the 3 and ¾ of a lap which makes up the Olympic equivalent of the mile- the 1500 meter run.
Onlookers were bewildered. Had an old fan found their way on to the Olympic practice track?
Crossing the imaginary finish line, bent over in exhaustion, the sporadic onlookers rightfully questioned what this old man was doing. That act of seeing an old man running (slowly) to exhaustion while the world’s greatest athletes warmed up around him was a confusing sight.
Upon recovering the exhausting effort, the man relayed a message to his much younger pupil- 'you may run faster than me. But you will not run harder.'
The man was Percy Cerutty. His pupil, Herb Elliot, would go on that evening to win Olympic Gold in the 1500 meter run, setting an Olympic and World Record in the process.
In the hours leading up to the race, Cerutty was sending his star pupil a message- 'I’m with you. I may not be able to run as fast as you, but I have been and will continue to be part of this journey with you.'
He was sending a message of belonging and mutual sacrifice to the man who would line up against the best in the world in a few short hours.
This wasn’t a one-off occasion. In the lead-up to the Games, Cerutty, Elliot, and others spent their time honing their craft at a sparse seaside shack that Cerutty called home. The athletes would escape from the real world every weekend to spend their days running up and down the sand dunes and circling a grass track with the mission of Olympic success. Despite his age, Cerutty would be right there with them. Running up and over the sandy hills, sending the message that 'I am suffering too.'
The message was clear: our effort was up to us. We controlled it. Regardless of if you are an Olympic champion or an old man, the effort we put forth could be the same.
'Great performance is the result of the intrinsic worth as found and developed in the individual… great athletes rise and crate their destiny. For them, life seems to be molded at their pattern, rather than they are molded by life- always the great athletes creates the schedule- never does the schedule create the great athlete.' -Percy Cerutty"
(Steve Magness 2021)
Steve Magness. 2021. “At the Olympic Games, a 60-Something-Year-Old Man, Rail-Thin,
with a Full Head of White Hair, Took to the Practice Track Adjacent to the Main Stadium
and Commenced to Run as Hard as He Could... A Thread on the Role of Effort in
Performance 👇👇👇.” Tweet. @stevemagness (blog). January 10, 2021.