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by Craig Fry
10 October 2017

At every race there are those that are competing for line honours and then there is the rest of us who make up the numbers on race day. But who is the better athlete? Is it the Average Joe athlete - that I am – or the elite athletes that I see so often as part of my job? I have to blame radio personality and sports nut Brad Brown for this debate raging in my head so often as it was Brad who asked me the question back in 2011, and I still have not completed the debate or have the final answer. In his weekly column for Run24, Craig Fry, IAAF Authorised Athlete Representative, shares his thoughts on this debateable topic.
Let’s firstly use the Comrades Marathon as an example. On the one hand we have an elite athlete who runs at his maximum ability and speed and finishes this gruelling race of around 87km in sub 5H30. Let’s face it these front runners are phenomenal! The majority of us only dream of running at that speed and what it must feel like to be up front, but we also realise that though we will never be leading the pack, we do have our own personal challenges that we fight to achieve.

The opposite to this is an athlete like my sister who ran her first Comrades Marathon last year and finished in 11H40, which was the best of her ability on the day. So my question is: would the guy running 5H30 be able to maintain his maximum ability and speed over 11 hours? Which leads me to the next question. Who then in terms of being able to push their bodies at maximum is the better athlete – the guy smashing a 5H30 or the person hammering away for over 11 hours?

Just to throw a curve ball in the mix, here is another scenario. Is the better athlete the one who has run the most races over a long period of time or the one who has won the most races? As an example would legendary Fusi Nhlapho with his 9 Comrades Golds be a better athlete than legendary Louis Massyn with his 45 Consecutive finishes at Comrades? Do we look at longevity or Gold Medals? Who is the better athlete? You tell me. 
I still don’t know. The best I can offer right now is the following: the best athlete around is the one that looks at you in the mirror after each race or after a personal milestone or setting a new PB, that’s the best athlete around.

Happy Running

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