Humans have a need for explanations. When faced with uncertainty we rely on closure. The world of running is no different. When something goes wrong, as athletes and coaches we go into a panicked search for a reason why we didn’t perform at our best. Often, we perform elaborate gymnastics attempting to find the elusive explanation.

When we perform a search, we often think we are taking a scientific approach; breaking down the potential causes one by one until we find an explanation. While there is merit in taking such a seemingly rationale approach, what often ends up happening is we are simply developing a story to reach closure. We can’t actually say that the warm-up or the meal you ate the night before, or the workout you performed two days before was the magical key to it all.

As coaches, this plays out in real life all the time. Think of how many athletes you’ve had who you were certain were raring to go but bombed on race day. Or the athlete who you gave no shot at all to, but somehow pulled the race of their life out of thin air. Athletics by nature is variabile and try as we may, we can’t control all of the variables.

In this episode of the Magness & Marcus show, we take all of this on. We look at the elaborate justifications we develop and the volatility of performance. We take on the effects of drug athletes and drug coaches which breads an entirely artificial environment and creates a false sense of certainty of performance.

As pointed out in this podcast, if an athlete has a bad race, it’s often taken as if the world ends and the athlete must be out of shape or have something wrong. But in the NBA, if Lebron James scores only 10 points in a game we don’t ask where Lebron’s magic went. We say it was a bad day, and he’s still averaging 25 points a game. Perhaps we need to start looking at track like this, it’s not your best performance that matters, but how consistent you are when it counts.

Thanks for giving it a listen, and if you could do us a huge favor and rate the show on iTunes that would be great!

Steve and Jon
@stevemagness
@jmarpdx


Resources:

Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

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Episode 38-The Science of the Unscience of Running:
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