Which is Important – Medal or Timing? Posted on November 9, 2018

By Rameshon

Picture 1 –Runners who could do sub -14min 5km are easily accessible in Loughborough University. It is a common sight.

To awaken the intrinsic motivation in a person, I take this opportunity to write this essay. Before that, I have to thank my coach, Alan, as he has a personality of humility. It is genuine. He taught me the process on how to go beyond awards and rewards and to enjoy and evolve in running. The best part of Alan is, when he wins a race, I have never seen him crow to anyone, once. As, such, I will go to the topic that I want to talk. It is to compare between getting a medal or one wants an improved time, from a time trial or a race. 

Picture 2 – Jack Buckner, a 13min 10sec 5000m runner is a friend of Alan. 

In my first year studying in Loughborough University, I met a number of top runners. After my first cross country race, I was introduced to Alan Guilder by Tim Dickenson, by former Captain of Loughborough University Cross Country Team. I was happy to train with Alan Guilder every morning. Alan was a 13min 32sec for 5000m track runner, and a number of races in Loughborough itself, he usually comes not second, but first. 

In Loughborough Echo Run, while Tim Dickenson came in second in Men Open’s category, with a time of 30min 30sec for 10km, I did 31min 46sec, and came in 10th. Both of us were two athletes of Loughborough University to come in top 10. Most of my Loughborough University friends were middle distance runners, as middle distance running was a craze in Loughborough. There were about 20 middle distance runners I saw, some were 3min 36sec people. The slowest 1500m runner was doing 3min 53sec, not any slower. Such was the standard in Loughborough University Athletics Team. Some runners do come from outside to join us. Over time, my friend Tim did a time of 48min flat for 15.2km run, with Alan. 

After my first year, I told Alan to be my personal coach and to plan for me everything. At that time, I was selected for National representation in IAAF World Half-Marathon, which I was supposed to go, and it fell on Sunday, 3, October 1993. Instead, I ran for Singapore in Berlin Marathon, in Sept, 1993. It was under him that I did 2hr 28min personal best time and a then national record. (Later I bettered it to 2hr 24min in Chiangmai SEA Games 1995). While training in Loughborough I also did a couple of very fast runs under him, which I will write in another blog post, in the future. Watch for it!

While running one day, I asked Alan on whether timing is important or medal. To this, he told me that he has run in a race where he did not do well at all, but he got the gold and he was first. Many poured encouraging words and told congratulations to him. He told me that he felt that the gold was worthless as he did not get even a personal best time. He said, “In another race, I did exceptionally well, but I was not congratulated at all.” ” I came in sixteenth, but it was a very good personal best time. No one congratulated”. ” People are funny.” The key message, in summary, told by Coach Alan was to go for personal best time and not to be affected by the medals. To him, medals are just extrinsic rewards, to motivate and it is not powerful as improving ones timing, which is an intrinsic reward, and it comes from within us. We tend to become enthusiastic through this. Hence, I followed this principle throughout my life, after leaving Loughborough University.  

In my life, I carefully choose a race by seeing all details and have statistical analysis of which race is good, i.e., having a fast course and a valid course and it is organised by AIMS, so that the race route is accurately measured. That was how I got the fastest ever Singaporean to do half-marathon time of 1hr 04min in Johore Half-Marathon, and having a marathon time of 2hr 24min 22sec performed in Chiangmai Marathon. I was able to go beyond getting awards, rewards and not use people’s wrong perception of winning, through Alan’s wisdom.