"I have arrived. I am home. In the here. In the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ultra Running Heroes and Foes



Many of us have grown up looking up to current and historic figures in sports or other disciplines. There are certain individuals that we look up to and aspire to be like them, and then there are others that we despise. That obsession or admiration of athletes does not die down with childhood and it continues though out our entire lives. I am not going to dwell into the psychology on why we look up to certain people, and why we aspire to like them. It is part of human nature. 


In many sports all we can do is watch these people or teams on TV. Maybe if we are lucky we can meet them and shake their hand, or even get their signature. However, for the most part we will never be able to play or compete with them on the same playing field. Enter ultrarunning. Ultrarunning is one of the rare sports where we can toe the line with the elites. You can run with them, chat with them on a more human level and even have a beer with some of them. It is this relationship with the “elites” in sport that makes us look up to them even more, but not in a way where we worship them like heroes, but rather as advisors, coaches and teachers. They are there to show us the way. How to be better, how to improve and how to treat others.
Photo credit: http://www.futas.net/futoverseny/UltraBalaton/UltraBalaton-20070624/images/img_8192.jpg
There are legends in this ultrarunning sport of ours that hold many records and that still race today. One of such individuals is Yiannis Kouros. Yiannis virtually holds every known speed record from 100 to 1000 miles. He is a legend and undeniably a superb runner. When you read about those feats and times, you develop a certain perception on what that individual should be like. Recently, Zach Bitter broke Yannis’ 12 hour record (101.66 miles) at the Desert Solstice 24 Hour Race in Phoenix as well as set the new American record for 100 miles (11:47:21). This is a first time that one of Yannis’ records has been broken. Records are there to be broken. Last week, from 12/28/2013 – 1/3/2014, Across the Years 6 day race took place, put together by Aravaipa Running. Yiannis participated in this race and was beaten by Joe Feyes in an epic 6 day battle.  

Photo Credit: http://runitfast.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Joe-Fejes-Across-The-Years-6-Day-2013-Winner.jpg
On January 6, 2014, someone from Yannis’ team posted a very negative message on his Facebook page that really left sour taste with many people. The message has since been removed, but it is displayed below in its entirety. All of a sudden that image of a well-liked athlete is shattered. Some will just take this as he was tired and cranky, but others will lose all respect. Is it ever right to put this much blame on others? In the world of social media nothing is sacred and all it takes is a split second and a wrong decision to bring everything you worked for crashing down. While Yannis is still and will always be a great legend in sport of ultrarunning, many will look at him in a different light or with a little asterisk next to his name.

Photo Credit: http://www.srichinmoybio.co.uk/news/wp-content/uploads/Yiannis.jpg
Records are there to be broken, but so are images of superstars and humble athletes. It doesn’t take much for a hero to become a foe, and for the most part once a foe, always a foe. 



Message from Facebook (it was taken down later that day):
"First of all we would like to thank Laura and Garry Jeanson for their warm hospitality prion to the race and Michael and Kimberley Miller (who also took part in the 72h race) for their warm hospitality after the race! We owe them great gratitude. [found and added that last paragraph].  On the last couple of weeks of his preparation Yiannis Kouros got a flu during a training in AThens Olympic Complex due to a very cold wind of that day. As the days were passing his health sityation became worse and effected a lot his final condition. At the arrival in Phoenix on Dec. 24, one of his baggage with the most important and necesarry running gear (racingshoes, basic clothes of every kind and other equipment) did not arrive, resulting to many trubles, wasting time to look for the bag and puting the crew and him in a feeling of frustration. Having only a few days to acclimatize to the extremities of this period weither, plus having the flu going on it was hard to face all these problems without loses.

Seen the track, the night before the race Yiannis was very dissapointed as he realised it was bumby, with lots of smal rocks, dust and humidity all aroud the course -especailay near the resting tents where was full of grass. That meant there is no any oportunity to achive any high performance as he was planing to try to acheive. It is clear that if Yiannis new the course in details he will never come to waste his effort for non opportunity of hi performance.

Then, the period of the year with so much cold and humidity during the night and the heat from the other hand during the day time (that forced him to ask for ice to put on his head, in order to avoid sun-stroke) was not ideal, but not promising at all to survive from new flu and other illness created by such weither extremities.

The negative issues did not stop hear. As the race started with so much stress and many goods missing from our staff, one serious problem was created from a member of the crew, who did a mistake in the dosology of Yiannis's drinks that even from the first day -especialy after 20hours a huge oidema was created in all his body and especialy on his bones, joins and arms that he couldn't move properly.

Later on more mistakes from another crew member who was unable to find the specific gear that Yiannis was asking, brought him so much frustration and made him so upset that  he lost his voice and started to get Pharigitis.

After that, there was not even a single moment without coughing for the entire event. All these problems effected his pace and created a general drp of his running tempo.

Many times he was in danger to fall down because of the continues coughing and from sleep deprevation. Axually, it happens twice that he fealt down.

In the last night a new truble came as his nose was bleeding without stop for the entire night.

Despite all these odds Yiannis was focused to complete the race with maximum possible milaedge in under sush bad coditions for him.

However, on top of that he had to face somethhing that desapointed him a lot. He never expected that the American runner will show such an antisportive behavior with antiathletic spirit, so that he was feeling pleased to see Yiannis suffering. Yiannis told him straight and  directly all that he psych-out from his reaction: He told him that it seems he didn't had a goal to acheive in miles/klms etc. His only goal was to take advantege of Yiannis' situation to be sick, his lack of sleep and his lack of his running gear-as his bag never came.

His reactions and running tactic was based on whatever Yiannis was doing.

It was obvious that he was happy to see Yiannis suffering and therefore he was gaining energy from that feeling with antisportive inspiration, considering Yiannis as his enemy and with only whom he had to fight-not for performance. Performance came outomatically as Yiannis was pushing to stay up till the last moment, as he did."


Call for comments:

-          Do actions of people you look up effect the way you look at them?
-          Do you still follow an athlete even if you do not like their personality or behavior?

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