Running is a punishing sport. In training and racing we beat on our bodies, and–let’s be honest–in a masochistic sort of way, competitive runners enjoy the thrill of kicking their own butts to the point of being completely spent when there’s a personal best at stake.
But, our bodies are only human after all and we’re constantly riding the fine line between doing just enough and not doing too much in training. It’s a struggle all runners deal with regardless of ability level–from high school harrier to collegiate standout, and from local weekend warrior to Olympic hero.
Some athletes have been coined as injury prone, and for one reason or another they are more susceptible to getting hurt. Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein is no stranger to injuries, as half of his last year of training and racing was swallowed up by them. When asked if he’s just unlucky and prone to getting injured, his thoughts were rather that when you’re constantly pushing the envelope at the level he trains, it’s just a part of the game.
For Ritzenhein it’s worth taking risks to get a true, one-hundred percent performance out of himself; he could back off more for the sake of being cautious, but that 10% margin of loss wouldn’t grant him a reflection of all he was truly capable of achieving.
By backing off ten percent perhaps one would be injured less–or, you could gamble, go all in and wind up with the race of your life. It’s like walking on the edge of a cliff. Sometimes you fall off and wind up injured, other times you don’t and you wind up with the performance of a lifetime–like Ritzenhein did when he broke the American Record in the 5,000 meters two summers ago.