Churchill-Style Run Motivation

Last year I missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by 2.5 minutes. This year I’m running the same race (Louisville) again with a vengeance, peppering life and the Yak Facebook page with motivational videos and speeches along the way.

I was feeling creative today while listening to one of my favorite speeches to get fired up for training, and thought I’d share some of the BQ hopeful edits I’ve made. The speech is Churchill’s address to the Harrow school:


Almost a year has passed since we came down here at the race director’s kind invitation in order to cheer ourselves and cheer the hearts of a few of our friends by running 26.2 miles of Louisville’s streets. The twelve months that have passed have seen very painful, monotonous long runs in the city – highs and hills, sicknesses –

But can anyone running here this morning, this April morning, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the condition of our pace group and of our legs?

Why, when we were at mile 20 last time we were quite behind BQ pace, desperately behind, and had been so for five or six miles. We were poorly prepared. We are not so poorly prepared today; but then we were poorly prepared. We had the unmeasured menace of the wall and its glycogen attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to feel excited that there has been this long lull with nothing particular turning up!

[the next two paragraphs are ommitted from the audio version for some reason, but I still runner-fied it]

But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that marathon runners are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from water to gatorade; they do not always expect that each mile will bring up some noble chance of a port-o-potty; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if it takes hours – if it takes many hours- they do it.

Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here twelve months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must “…meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same.”

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more failures than perhaps exist; certainly by many more minutes than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.

But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the runners – surely from this period of twelve months this is the lesson:

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of injury and good sense.

Never yield to the wall; never yield to the apparently overwhelming size of the hills in Iroquois park.

We ran behind pace a year ago, and to many spectators it seemed that our BQ journey was closed, we were finished. All this training of ours, our Garmin history, our shoes, this part of the story of our running lives, were gone and finished and liquidated.

Very different is the mood this morning. BQ hopefuls, spectators thought, had drawn a sponge across their slates. But instead our shoes stood in the gap. There is no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seems almost a miracle to those outside our training groups, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to qualify for Boston.


And, of course, the original speech by Churchill himself…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s