As I write this, Sep 2011, Paula Radcliffe is the marathon world record holder. She’s also the holder of the marathon world best. If that sounds confusing, then read on to find how a recent development in that sport can affect your own goal achievement…
Would it make matters even more confusing if I told you that her world record has been taken off the record books, but she is still the official holder on those same books? Ok, let’s delve in to the explanation!
In 2003, Radcliffe ran 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds in the London marathon to set the world record. It has stood since then. Marathons have to meet certain criteria for the time to be an official record, a notable one being the amount of distance the course drops over the 26 miles.
In other words, if a course drops too far, is it considered ‘downhill’ and therefore the times would be faster, so those courses are ineligible for records. London is fine on that front, so is a “record possible” course. In 2005, Radcliffe ran 2.17.42 in London, which is important as you’ll see shortly.
So, her 2003 record was admired for 8 years until 2011, when the IAAF, the international governing body for athletics, decided to move the goal posts. They now say that a world record can only be run in women only races.
To explain that further, most city marathons have the women running with the elite men, and the IAAF have said that a woman having male pace setters gives an unfair advantage, in the same way that running a downhill course does.
While I can see a logic to that argument, there are huge problems that come with the decision. Organising a big marathon is no small feat, and lots of road races have women and men running together, so the logistics of creating a women only race creates problems.
Secondly, and this is the driver behind this article’s point, they are changing the rules after the event – 8 years after the event in fact! That record was set fair and square within the rules at the time, so is it fair to now take it off the books?
Her 2003 time has now been reclassified as a world best rather than a world record, so to find the official world record, the IAAF have gone to the fastest time in a women only race on an eligible course – and they ended up with Paula Radcliffe running 2.17.42 in London 2005, because that race was a women only race, set off at a time which didn’t have them running alongside male pace setters.
She was at the height of her powers then, untouchable really, so no surprise to find that she is still the world record holder despite losing her world record! Her body has been injury hit since then, and she’s unlikely to run 2 hours 15 again. So is she upset??
Well, Radcliffe herself has responded that she considers the ruling unfair, but “can’t stress about things that are out of my control”
I’ll repeat that quote, because it’s hugely important:
“I can’t stress about things that are out of my control”
In this case, an outside influence has had a huge impact on her achievements, but her attitude is spot on.
Whatever your goal may be, you will surely come against outside influences that you can’t control. You may not react like Paula. You may find yourself ranting and raving, changing your actions to battle that outside force.
Yes, sometimes you can make changes, but if that’s the case, it’s something within your control. The point is about how you deal with things *outside* your control.
The best reaction is to refocus on what you can control, to change the things you can change. It’s a great lesson not just for goal achievement, but for personal development and contentment.
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