No Athlete is glad to miss a race, by Justin Lagat

In this feature, Justin Lagat writes about the real feelings athletes have when they pull out of a major race or track meet. He focuses this on Patrick Makau and his withdrawal from the BMW Berlin Marathon. 

Thumbnail image for Makau_PatrickFVWR1a-Berlin11.jpg
Patrick Makau on a better day, BMW Berlin Marathon 2011, 
photo by 

When an athlete pulls out of a race, especially a
few days to the race day, it is always a very disappointing moment to him, his
coach and his fans. And, to add insults to an injury, people will in most cases
still make up their own negative assumptions as to why the athlete pulled out
of a race, ranging from fear to be defeated, to fail a drug test, to run a poor
time that will compromise his contract and elite status, among others.

Sometimes, an athlete may pull out of a race in a
major championship event when it is already too late for his country to replace
him with another athlete. A similar situation happened at the world
championships in Moscow in the men's 800m race when Amos Nijel of Botswana who had the fastest time of 1:41.73 in the start list pulled out a few days to the
race day. Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya also had to pull out in the women's event.

While many people made negative stories about their pulling out, one
understanding from one elite athlete here sounded very appealing to me. That,
no competitive athlete believes that he is going to be defeated by anyone in an
oncoming race, or that he doesn't stand a chance to win. That can never be far
from the truth. I sincerely believe that the number of athletes who believe
they stand a chance to win the Berlin Marathon this weekend are more than 200,
if I am not wrong. Why would an athlete who has won it before not believe that
he now stands even a better chance than the last time he did it?

Having been closely following and monitoring the
behaviors of most elite athletes in Kenya, I will never be quick to make up
such negative stories when an athlete has to finally pull out of a race,
especially if he is a Kenyan. I know many of them who even go to an extent of
hiding their illness and injuries to avoid being advised to forego a race.

That's why it really will not be that easy for me to believe a story of an
athlete who has trained for years faking an injury or sickness to miss a race.
Patrick Makau was set to put concerted efforts with
his countryman, Wilson Kipsang to lower the marathon world record in Berlin
this weekend, but has just pulled out of the race due to a knee injury. I would
not be surprised if someone has not already made up a story that he could be
doing that to protect his world record. Why would he do that when he would be
in a better position to do that while in the race? For now, Wilson Kipsang will
have to work together with Eliud Kipchoge and if he was to break the world record
running with Makau, then I don't see why he won't do it while running with
Eliud Kipchoge.

Injuries and illnesses are challenges that any athlete can never get immune to. The worst thing is that they tend to happen when an athlete is in his best shape to compete because that is the time when he has been spending a lot of his energy in training thereby compromising his immune system. Most professional coaches often advise their athletes to listen to their bodies and to know when they need to stop training for a while as they would otherwise be doing themselves more harm than good if they continued training. 

Eating well also helps the body's defense to colds, flu and other illnesses that may interfere with one's health and race plans.One thing that should be a fact for sure is that, no athlete is ever happy to miss a race. It is such a traumatizing moment for some.

I have even heard of others who fainted when the New York marathon had to be
postponed last year. But, on the good side, such disappointments often bring
out the best in many athletes when they come back to competitions. I have
watched so many athletes come back from an injury to do great performances. One
of them is Asbel Kiprop who just did splendidly this year after the
disappointment he got last year due to an injury.

For all those athletes who have had to pull out of a race after months and years of intensive training and preparations, I hope that by reading this piece, it will offer you some relief to know that some people do understands your pain. Hopefully, the pain and the disappointments you went through, or are going through right now, will make you come out much stronger next time.

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