Well, last week was one week for the history books. That’s for sure. Not only the Kona’s male course record was beaten in tough conditions, but Germany really stormed into victory in a powerful and impressive fashion. No doubt about that either.
In the men’s field Jan Frodeno took the victory and set a new course record in 7 hours 51 minutes — beating fellow German Patrick Lange’s best from last year and becoming the first German triathlete to win the Ironman World Championship for the third time. In the female field, on the other hand, another German (Anne Haug, coached by Frodeno’s same trainer, Dan Lorang) delivered the fastest run of the day (2:51) and caught Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay after 25km into the marathon. She had started with 8 minute gap after the bike section, but then she kept flying and won with and advantage of 8 minutes.
It’s the first time Germany takes the double win in Kona and quite possibly the first time a coach brings to athletes (one man and one woman) to a WC title in the same day. Lorang definitely knows a thing or two about this sport — and on how to develop short-course athletes into long-distance machines. Both Frodeno and Haug were in fact ITU athletes before.
But as you all know, Saturday was not only about the most important event in the triathlon world, because earlier that morning in Vienna, a certain Eliud Kipchoge — arguably the best marathoner of all times — became the first man on earth to have run a marathon in less than two hours. One hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds to be precise.
Many — including several sport scientists — have criticised the record because of the use of a pair of shoes with ‘springs’ and carbon plates (plus Kipchoge was protected and drafted the whole time), But hey, that will still be remembered as the first marathon ever ran under the two-hour barrier. Oh yes, on Sunday also the women’s marathon record was beaten in Chicago by 90 seconds by Kenya's Brigid Kosgei.
To be able to witness to these performances it’s truly inspiring because they redefine sports in general and their disciplines in particular. But on top of the inspiration and respect for these athletes, what else can we all learn from their incredible efforts?
1. They never give up
Frodeno had won the IM WC in 2015 and 2016. Then in 2017 he had to walk the marathon because of a muscle injury and in 2017 didn’t even compete because of a hip fracture. After two years of stop from the big show, many doubted he was able to come back to the Big Island and deliver the same kind of performances he was used to deliver. Well, Frodo shut them all up and showed he’s one of the greatest triathletes of all times. Anne Haug, on the other hand, had started the marathon in Kona with a pretty big 8-minute gap on Charles-Barclay. It was hard to predict her winning the race in the end, but she simply showed she’s on a different level when she has both feet on the ground and if this is not a mark of not giving up, I’m not sure what else could it be. What about Kipchoge? Well he had already tried to go sub-2 in Monza two years ago, but he didn’t make it for a mere 26 seconds. Well, he didn’t give up (the sponsors neither), learned from that experience and came back with more knowledge and delivered it in pure style. Bouncy shoes or not.
2 Fast is always faster
These athletes are truly incredible, because no matter how strong and fast they already are, they always seem to be able to find an extra gear and push their limits further. To even even become 1% faster and improve themselves year after year is massive, particularly at the level where they are, where everything they do is already the result of a hyper-scientific and hyper-methodical approach to performance. What they excel at is also the ability to understand where they can improve, getting out there every day with that goal and finally achieving that little increase. Their drive and motivation is just unique.
3 Success is always a team effort
It doesn’t matter the athlete is alone when racing a triathlon or a marathon, the result he/she will be able to deliver that day is always the result of a team effort. Coaches, nutritionists, physiotherapists, psychologists, family members (and even dogs!) are always the figures working behind the scenes and contributing to the overall result. It may be a small contribution in some cases (a lonely bark), but even the smallest contribution could result in a record-breaking race or a world title. With the advent of social medias, it seems that athletes are engaging more with their teams than and share their work behind the scenes more than in the past. Luckily for us, we can finally know who these amazing people behind the scenes are.
4. Performance is not random
You can’t win a race if you don’t put in the hard work in. You can’t come back from an injury if you don’t want it badly. You can’t close an 8-minute gap if you don’t believe it. You don’t get anywhere if you start by thinking it is not possible. You don’t bring two athletes at the top of their game and win the WC on the same day. Performance is a system composed of several pieces. The more stones you turn, the more you’ll learn about yourself and about the system of performance.
5. They are what sport is all bout
When great athletes perform at their best, they look smooth and beautiful. They seem doing it so naturally that the movement seems effortless (although it is not). They look like an artistic and aesthetic piece of art in motion. They become one with their discipline, they flow and dance and they capture our dreams and imagination in a profound way.