Transferring the demands of distance running to cycling is natural progression
Tolerance of pain is what marks outthe greats and willingness to suffer is the key to making the grade
Distance running demands a different intensity that so declines with age that it can only be more extreme in the first place. There was a time when some of us would follow a hard 12-mile tempo run with something easier later in the day; now even an easy 12-mile run is followed by the need to lie down for the rest of day.
This might also explain why so many distance runners actually take so easily to cycling, even when their prime wears off. Noel Berkeley, once the King of the Roads, as in road running, has become something of a King of the Mountains, on his road bike, as anyone who has ever challenged him on the stiff inclines outside of Midleton will know.
Keith Kelly, a man whose exceptional distance running potential was cut short by injury, rode himself to the top of the amateur American cycling ranks within one season, aided by a willingness to embrace pain that knew no bounds.
Indeed it’s this tolerance for pain, as much as talent, that often separates the great runners from the ordinary ones, and the same, it seems, goes for cycling.
“It’s like asking if you’d rather have a drill put through your ear or through your hand,” Shane Connaughton told me once, a man of famous cycling background, and now as familiar with the running scene.
The difference is that distance runners seem to transfer to cycling much easier than the other way round, not that it’s quite that straightforward.
The fact there aren’t any Kenyan or Ethiopian riders challenging for the polka dot jersey in the Alps and Pyrenees over the next three weeks is evidence that cycling isn’t just about slow-twitch muscle fibres and an unbearable lightness of being. Distance runners only require the soles of their feet, while cycling requires at least a minor financial investment still beyond the means of many. The fact there aren’t any Caribbean riders challenging Mark Cavendish for the green jersey is evidence too that cycling’s elite is a more select race.
What cycling will always afford is the folly of believing there is one last prime, no matter what age, and that it might somehow transfer back to distance running.
Armed by that pretence comes my final cycle of training for the Wicklow Hospice Foundation’s next fundraising venture, and the running of seven marathons, over seven successive days, starting next Sunday, July 7th, at 7.07am. Designed to accommodate all levels of fitness, running each or only one, in part or in full, only no such thing as the comfort of the dropped handlebars of a racing bike.
Join up at www.wicklowhospice.ie