Sunday, April 13, 2008

Try harder

A slightly tenuous connection to conservation biology but bear with me. Recently I've been reading Tim Noakes 'Lore of Running' which is a 930 page behemoth that covers absolutely everything you might ever want to know about the physiology of running, training and the history of the sport. In it he talks about the legendary coach Franz Stampfl who revolutionized the sport by introducing the concept of interval training. This concept, which he introduced in the 1950's, is still widely used today. Stampfl was a tremendously successful coach who used these methods to train three of the first five men to break the four minute mark for the mile, including the first person to do so Roger Bannister.

In the 1950's Norman Myers, who later introduced the concept of Biodiversity Hotspots, was an undergraduate at Oxford and trained with the already legendary Stampfl. He recalls that the sum total of Stampfl's advice was to 'try harder' and if this worked to come back in a month. Coming back in a month Myers got the advice 'Try harder still'. I don't know what success Myers had as an undergraduate but apparently he ran a 2:37:00 marathon at the age of 46 - which, if you don't know, is pretty damn fast.

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