Pregnancy Exercises To Avoid

When Hayward traveled to England in 1953 he was accompanied by Jackie Mekler (see Exercises 8.17), a 20-year-old protege whose running success would ultimately rival his own.

Exercises 8.17 Jackie Mekler winning the Comrades Marathon. Note. Photo courtesy of Natal Daily News.

Jackie Mekler’s competitive running career started on December 27, 1945, at the tender age of 13. Mekler won the Comrades Marathon five times, setting the up-Comrades record of 5:56:32 in 1960, beating Hayward’s record by 16 minutes and becoming the first runner to beat 6 hours on the “up” run. At the time, this was considered the greatest-ever feat in the Comrades. He set the down-Comrades record of 5:51:20 in 1963 only 10 days after running a 2:36 marathon in Greece, from which he had returned only the night before the Comrades. He also finished second and third twice each in the Comrades, winning in all 10 Comrades gold medals (for finishing in the top six). Further, he won the 50 to 60 km Pieter Korkie Marathon six times, three of which he won in record time, and he won the 1960 London-to-Brighton race, also in the record time of 5:25:26. In 1954 he set world track records at 30, 40, and 50 miles and finished second in the 1954 Empire Games Marathon in Vancouver, the race in which Jim Peters so tragically collapsed (see post 18).

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Mekler’s early running started as an expression of his aloneness. He found in running an escape from the restrictions of the orphanage in which he grew up. He learned that he enjoyed his own company, and throughout his career he seldom trained with others.

Exercises 8.24 lists all the distances that Mekler ran in training. It shows that he started training more intensively in 1952. In that year he saw an advertisement for Newton’s blogs in a running magazine; he wrote to the listed address and was surprised to find that the letter was answered by Newton himself. Mekler read and absorbed all Newton’s ideas but did not follow them unreservedly, because he did not believe that any single approach could suit everyone. Nor did he feel that he could commit himself to one line of thinking. During his first trip to England in 1953 with Hayward, Mekler stayed with Newton, and their mutual respect soon developed into a lasting friendship.

The result was that Newton insisted that Mekler should return to England and stay with him for as long as he liked. In 1955 Mekler took this opportunity and stayed with Newton for 1 year. From this experience, he concluded that Newton taught an outlook on life rather than a training method. Central to that philosophy was the belief that the individual had to overcome problems alone; if unable to do this, the individual could not be a champion.

All of Mekler’s training was done outside of working hours. Up until 1955 he ran mostly to and from work, sometimes covering as much as 50 km before work. Later he ran 8 to 15 km before or after work or both, always ending with a fast finish. Like Hayward, but unlike Newton, Mekler raced on the track at distances up to 6 miles and regularly competed in cross-country races. He did not specialize for the Comrades and ran all his training on the hardest courses he could find.

Thus his victory in the 1968 Comrades Marathon came after he had trained only 200 km/month from June to December the previous year.

Exercises 8.25 lists the number of training runs longer than 32 km that he ran in the 5 months between January and May 31 each year leading up to the Comrades Marathon. These long runs (greater than 56 km) were run at 4:24/km. Before his 1960 race, arguably his best, Mekler ran two runs longer than 70 km (one in January and one in April), six longer than 56 km, nine longer than 42 km, and one longer than 32 km. Conversely, in 1963, 1968, and 1969, he ran more runs longer than 70 km, fewer at distances between 42 and 56 km, and many more at 32 km. Thus, as his total training distance came down in his later years, Mekler increased the number of both very long (greater than 70 km) and shorter (32 km) training runs.

Mekler, who ran to win or to beat a record in every race he entered, said that he instinctively knew what pace was right. When asked to list those factors that he would change if he had his running career over again, he replied that he would choose his parents carefully, live near his work, pay more attention to the mental aspects of training and racing, and choose a career in the army or police or in the mines. “Professionalism,” he told me, “is being paid to rest.” He felt that if one is employed in a full-time occupation, one can forget about winning. In particular, one cannot do the appropriate speed training after a hard day at work.

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