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"This sort of thing was important because it helped me to gain an entrance to my athletes' minds through another medium. A coach must be interested in everything—music, art, ballet, racing cars, mountaineering, skiing, religion. Should an athlete show a liking for a subject I do not know, I make a point of studying it. Only with complete understanding can we reach the true partnership needed. Chataway, for instance, is an admirer of Lawrence of Arabia. Whatever he has suffered in training or running is cast against the background of a man who, he believes, gave much more. This well-spring of inspiration is important in a civilized world where a man is seldom asked to tax himself to the limits of his powers."
Part and parcel of this mental side of his training program is Stampfl's firm conviction that the athlete must be master of himself, not just the willing slave of his coach. "During my first interview with the Amateur Athletic Association, when I was seeking an opportunity to coach," he recalls, "a moment of indignation forced me to crystallize a policy to which I have always adhered. 'I am not a German coach,' I told them then, 'and I do not force anyone to do anything. There are no laws to control athletes.' I was very young in those days—only 27—but I was already certain that coaching was intuitive rather than a scientific thing. From my early days in Vienna as a skier and a javelin thrower I have always thought of sport as an art rather than something to be reduced to the blackboard level. In training I always ask my athletes what they want to do. Brian Hewson was so amazed by this technique when he first came to me that he hesitated to accept it. 'You're the boss,' he said. 'You tell me.' His answer shocked me, because it was a reflection of a man not willing to take responsibility. Once, a little later, he came for training after being out until the early hours of the morning. He was sheepish, and expected me to be angry. Instead I said 'It doesn't really matter, but you cannot expect to do a hard workout because your body is not sufficiently recovered.' I tried by my attitude to impress on him that the responsibility was his, not mine. I never use the schoolmaster approach, because if I do, boys will always be boys. And from that day on, Hewson began to take charge of himself."
A CHALLENGE FROM CHATAWAY
Chataway's reaction to Stampfl was as challenging in a different way. A strong individualist, he was prejudiced against coaches, harboring an objection to regimentation often found in English university men. Stampfl's way of dealing with this was deceptively easy. Regimentation, the strict, undeviating routine of any kind of training, was unavoidable. "But," says Stampfl, "fortunately, my methods have always been to influence the athlete's mind to make him believe the ideas are his own. Once, for instance, before the Kuts race, Chataway arrived for training and did not think he could do the four separate mile time trials in four minutes 20 seconds as arranged. I knew he could not afford to miss the training, but I did not show my feelings. 'Don't worry,' I said, 'just run a mile in 4:40.' He did 4:32. During the recovery interval we talked and joked and he revived, showing his usual spirit for training. In the end he did the last three miles as planned and said it was terrifically easy. He thought it was a great workout.
"Training," Stampfl continued, "is so vitally important that it presents a problem in itself. It is not enough just to impress on the athlete that without hard work he has no tools for success. Somehow training must be made a rich experience in itself and not just a means to an end. The technical side of it must slip simply into the pattern and not sound like a geometry lesson. When an athlete wants to train, in contrast to being persuaded to do so, then you are on the right road."
The technical side of Stampfl's training—interval running, in the case of the middle-distance and distance runners for whom Stampfl is most famous—is not easy to "slip simply into the picture." Stretched over weeks and months, it is an appalling grind of repeated running, time after time, over a set distance with constantly shortening periods for recovery in between and constantly accelerating speeds. ( Tom Courtney, the great American 880 man whom Stampfl once offered to coach, frankly described it as "too tough." "I saw what those European runners had to do," he said. "They practice four hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes they do as much as eight hours of running in a day. I only work out three times a week and for two hours on each occasion.") It is the type of training that makes milers out of three-milers, quarter-milers out of milers, sprint men out of half-milers and quarter-milers. The runner only occasionally runs his true distance; most of his time is spent in running sections of it, meanwhile constantly pushing back the threshold of his endurance. "If a man is to run a three-mile race in world-record time," says Stampfl, "he must be able to get near or under four minutes for the mile. To do this he must be able to run a fast half and a good quarter mile. Sometimes I believe the great distance runners could be produced from strong sprinters. Speed is a basic quality which is never lost by adding stamina."
Stampfl has never had the opportunity to attempt this logical conclusion of the interval running system and he probably never will. Tempting as it is, the challenge of trying to build a supermiler out of a record-breaking sprinter involves tremendous risks; but making sprinters out of milers is a different matter. Relatively speaking, this is what he does, and it has resulted in the astonishing versatility shown by many of his (and other interval system coaches') pupils—men like Chataway, whose real distance is three miles and up, yet who has run an under-four-minute mile; or Brasher, the steeplechaser; or Roger Bannister, who was a worthy competitor at anything from the half mile to a cross-country race. With these and others Stampfl has proved the advantage of encouraging athletes to compete at varying distances. "They are released from the anxiety of always being expected to win," he says. "Also, it gives them terrific scope for experience, new exhilarations and mental relaxation. Then there are the tremendous tactical advantages gained by a distance man competing over the shorter events where a number of quick bursts are often needed to improve positioning."
THE SECRET OF THE GRIND
This, as much as anything, is the secret of how to keep an athlete's imagination and interests stimulated during the long training grind; and the grind itself is the secret to his ultimate success. "Very simply," says Stampfl, "if you possess the natural potential, and are willing to train for the four-minute mile, it can be achieved. It is not difficult, but the approach seems to puzzle some. Take a runner like Wes Santee, who competed indoors and outdoors throughout the season. Such a program must have taken the edge from him, although his performances were spectacular. If only he had prepared for six to eight months, and then gradually conditioned his body for the great effort! What times he might have achieved!
"Bannister, Chataway and Hewson all began their buildup early in the winter, reverting to elementary speeds of quarter-mile laps of 70 seconds. Within seven months this was reduced by 10 seconds, but it was hardly noticed because they were holding back their speed but increasing pace. These milers became so conditioned that they were able to produce the same time whether it was windy, muddy, rainy or cold. By the summer they could run a major race near world-record time every three weeks and produce a good performance weekly. Last year, when Chataway ran the three miles in 13 minutes 23.2 seconds for a new world record, he found it took little out of him. That winter preparation is needed after every season to build up for the new summer battles."