Rogue Running has a terrific interview of Bob Kennedy up. Kennedy began his 15 years of dominance of the American running scene at the time when I first became interested in running, so as long as I've been following running, I've been following Kennedy. In this interview, Kennedy speaks on everything from retirement, to training with the Kenyans, to the USATF, to what it's like to run as a full-time job. Do read it all, but my favorite bits follow.
On training and breaking through mental barriers:
One of the things I learned was levels of intensity. Our minds--we sometimes subconsciously set barriers in our mind about what is hard and what’s not hard, and I found very quickly that what I thought was hard was actually a whole other level than what I was capable of doing. That’s a personal thing, meaning that you have to find your own barriers and your own limitations, and that’s what I think all of this is all about: honestly seeking out what your limitations are.
No matter your level, what Kennedy is saying here is absolutely true. Whether you're a 5-hour marathoner or a 2:45 marathoner.
Kennedy is also a union agitator, which, to my mind, is the only chink in his armor (I kid; what he's saying is probably a good idea at this point):
Now, [shoe companies] feel that it is good business to support track and field, and it is, along with distance running and marathoning, but it is not the shoe companies’ responsibility to do that. I think it is the responsibility of the sport. And when I say that I mean it is the responsibility of the athletes to band together. If you want to call it a union, call it a union; who cares? But athletes need to organize as a group and develop more power as a group. People make money out of this sport. The shoe companies benefit because there is more brand awareness, so they sell more product; there are meets out there, and TV.
You know. USATF, they’re making money; it was published last week in the local paper that Craig Masback (CEO of USATF) is making $400,000+ a year. [Holy shit! -- ed.] That’s fine; he’s actually done a great job for that organization, but it shows that there is money out there. And, like the player’s unions of the NFL and the NBA, their power is to see that it is distributed on a fair basis. The problem we have in our sport is that it is either feast or famine. If you are one of the better athletes in the world, you’re doing very, very well. If you are the kind of athlete who has a chance but you’re not quite there yet, maybe finishing 8th in the trials or 6th in the trails, then you are struggling, you’re scraping by. There is no equality there. And that support needs to come from, in my opinion, organization within the system.
On what he's learned as a result of distance running (and, consequently, what everyone can learn from distance running):
And that’s what I’d like to communicate to others, the benefits of (number one) running in general and then (number two) the process of being successful. And I really look at it as a process or, as Billy Mills refers to it, as a journey. That, to me, is the most important lesson from all this, and that lesson can then be translated to anything…to business, school, whatever. It is just a process of thought--vision, goal setting, planning, education--developed to establish the best plan and then the discipline needed to execute. That is what it takes to be a great runner, and that’s the lesson I’d love to share from my running career.
On running as a job:
It really is more than a full time job. I’ve described it to people in the past and you know it really is a 24 hour a day job, 7 days a week, 12 months a year. Everything that you do (or don’t do) has some effect, positive or negative, on your training and as a result your competition. It is not just showing up to practice in high school or college or to your training sessions after that and doing the work out and then being done. There’s food; there’s sleep; there’s massage, ice baths; there’s core strength and flexibility. All that, and that’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Saturday, Sunday…it never ends. It is a huge, huge commitment if you are going to train at that highest level.
Bob is, and always has been, as fine a representative of American track & field as we could ask for.