Emil Zátopek, 4 lessons about running and life

If you are a runner that gives up at the first difficulty, here some advice from the “Czech Locomotive”


0. Who was Emil Zátopek?

From Wikipedia:


Emil Zátopek was a Czechoslovak long-distance runner best known for winning three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki
He won gold in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres runs, but his final medal came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life.

Zátopek was the first runner to break the 29-minute barrier in the 10,000 metres (in 1954). 
Three years earlier, in 1951, he had broken the hour for running 20 km.

He is widely considered to be one of the greatest runners of the 20th century and was also known for his brutally tough training methods.

1. It’s never too late

If I can get better, why not? — Emil Zátopek

Emil Zátopek realized his greatest sporting challenge (the triple gold medal of Helsinki) at 30 years, a very advanced age for a wearying discipline as the distance running.

Furthermore, Zátopek had started late also his racing career: before 18 years he had never done workouts.

Yes, it may also be late to achieve certain goals, but this should not be an excuse to give up.

2. Train in always, in all conditions

It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys. — Emil Zátopek

Zátopek ran for miles in the snow, and did it not with ultralight technical shoes: he trained with some heavy war boots.
Furthermore, in 1946 Zátopek was locked in Prague but he need to participate to his first international competition, so it decide to reach Berlin with a bicycle: 354 km along the roads devastated by the bombings of World War II.

Learn to keep his eyes fixed on your goal and no one will stop you.

3. Do not be intimidated

Are you running out of breath? Go faster! — Emil Zátopek

Zátopek ran his first marathon with the Olympic champion Jim Peters.

Halfway through the race the two athletes are paired. 
Zátopek, having no experience of such long races, asks Peters if their pace is not too high.

Although the pace is very high, Peters tries to demotivate the opponent saying that “are going too slow”.
So Emil accelerates, Peters tries to keep up but stops after a few kilometers with cramps.
Zatopek keeps his pace up to the entrance of the stadium, winning his third gold medal and breaking the previous record of 6 minutes.

4. Life is not a beauty contest

“I was not talented enough to run and smile at the same time.” — Emil Zátopek

The Zátopek running style was awful: he ran with an expression of agony on his face, the neck nestled between the shoulders, and arms moving completely uncoordinated.

His grimaces and his snorts were the object of irony of the commentators, who had nicknamed him the “Czech Locomotive”

But he won, a lot!

Running goal for 2016? Reached!

5000 fun kilometers!


A big ‘thank you’ to who tolerates this my insane passion, to those who see me back into the house in rainy days soaked and dripping, to those who has now got used to wake up the morning with my place in bed empty.


Goals for 2017? 5100 km!

Four tips for run in the rain

Trivial, ironic, and perhaps even useful tips


I’m not a lover of treadmill and indoor workouts, so in case of rain (even stronger) does not discourage me and grant me the daily morning run.

So I propose 4 simple tips, earned in years of racing in the rain.


1 — Warm up


The first thing to do before tackling the workout in the rain is warm up the muscles as much as possible.
A good warm-up program could be a brief stretching session, and a few minutes of active warming to increase the blood supply to the muscles.


2 — Dress properly


First, wear a waterproof and breathable technical jacket.
To protect your eyes from annoying raindrops, wear a hat with a visor.
Wear a light thermic clothing, so as not to weigh you down further when wet.
Also protects your hands with a couple of technical gloves.


3 — Plan the return


You need to prepare properly your house for your return: if you do not want to flood the entrance, place some newspaper on the floor near the door on which you can drip off, and them can be also used to dry your running shoes.


4 — Be careful!


With the rain, everything becomes slippery and the risk of falls is really increased: so be careful where you put your feet.
If you run in a city, remember that drivers have a reduced visibility in the rain and…stay away from the puddles!

Running for time or Running for distance, that is the question!

It’s one of the biggest dilemma of every runner: is better run slow for a long distance or make a short workout focused on the speed? (Spoiler: for me neither of the two!)


The human brain is able to manage the time and the distance, but does so in different ways.

For a runner, they are undoubtedly most simple the workouts in which the measure to be considered is the distance: when the finish line is tangible and perceptible, it becomes easier to manage and optimize the effort.

If the unit of measurement is the time, the references are minor and the effort management is more difficult.

Running by time should be useful to identify the pace that you are able to sustain in a given time period: having only time as a reference, we tend to “listen” your body, capturing with more sensitivity the signals that it sends.

Instead, running for the distance is useful to focus on the race pace and, thanks to more precise references, figure out if you need to go faster or you can slow down and better manage the effort.


I definitely prefer the long distances, but in a different perspective.


For my point of view the workouts are always an opportunity to meditate and put in order thoughts, and a workout on the distance of a half marathon, run with a quiet and relaxed pace helps undoubtedly the concentration.

So, no agonism, no time, no peace, no workout plans: just wear a pair of shoes and run as you want and as long as you need it.

About this, i highly recommend to read this article by Leo Babauta:

Running is my zazen. It’s my meditation, my peaceful routine, my inner sanctum.

In Zen Buddhism, zazen (which literally means “seated meditation”) is the central focus of the practice. Depending on the school of Zen, zazen is used to concentrate on koans or to just sit and be present, experiencing things in the moment.

I actually use running for two purposes:

Concentration. During this time, I try to focus on my breathing, on my feet as they strike the ground, on how my body feels, on the sights and sounds and smells of nature around me, and on my thoughts as they occur. I try not to think about the past and the future, but try to remain in the moment. This is difficult, and requires a lot of concentration and energy.

Contemplation. This is actually much easier — I just use running as a quiet time, to think about my life, about my writing (including this very post, which was composed in my head while I was running), about what is important to me.

My Running Streak Challenge: the second year is done!

July 4 is my independence day…from the couch!


Last year, i’ve published on my (old) blog this article:

http://oldsite.andreafortuna.org/running/2015/07/04/369-workouts-in-365-days/

In this post i write about the accomplishment of a my personal challenge: running everyday for an whole year, and i closed the article with this sentence:

I could take (finally!) a day off, but i like too much the chance of reach two years of daily workouts!

Actually, i have not taken the day off, i continued the daily workout, reaching an average of 100 kms for week (12 km from monday to friday, 20km saturday and sunday).

So, this second year of my running streak ends today with 5062 kms, with a grand total of 9579 km traveled in 2 years.


What i will do now?

Change them? Because? They have only 2600 km!

Unless it is not strictly necessary, i don’t take a day off and I will continue the series of daily workouts, maybe trying to increase weekly mileage.

Discover your foot type with the “Wet Test”

Know your foot!


Runnersworld.com published a simple method to discover if you have a foot with a flat or high arches, useful to choose the right pair of running shoes.

The beautiful illustrations are realized by Dan Fuehrer:

Pour a thin layer of water into a shallow pan.

Wet the sole of your foot.

Step onto a shopping bag or a blank piece of heavy paper and stand on that leg.



Step off, look at the shape of your footprint and compare it with this images:

NORMAL (MEDIUM) ARCH — Most runners with this pattern can wear just about any shoe.

FLAT (LOW) ARCH — Usually, we would recommend shoes with more stability

HIGH ARCH — We would usually recommend you use a well-cushioned shoe with little or no arch support or stability features.

via http://www.runnersworld.com/running-shoes/the-wet-test