Oxford University Athletics Club

Motivational Quotes

Clement Jackson

“Nothing astonishes me more nowadays, than to take up in the long vacation, some sporting paper and to read in them the report of athletic meetings which have taken place all over the country. There seems to be sport now in every village, in every provincial town and large meetings in connection with every centre of industry and every important county district. For this rapidly increasing expansion I maintain that you (the club) are and have been directly responsible. Athletes of all classes have looked to the action of OUAC to guide the best tone and interest they pursue; it is for this reason that you have been as you may be again, constituted a final court of appeal. Such an appeal was a distinct recognition of what I called your supremacy, a supremacy I was always very zealous to uphold as I am sure you will be also.”
Jackson was involved in OUAC for more than half a century. He was instrumental in its development as an athlete, president and senior member. This quote comes from part of his testimonial speech which was given when addressing OUAC athletes on 22 March 1879. To read more about Jackson, please read the club history, or visit the legend’s page by clicking here.

Glenn Cunningham

“People can’t understand why a man runs. They don’t see any sport in it, argue that it lacks the sight-thrill of body contact, the colour of rough conflict. Yet the conflict is there, more raw and challenging than any man versus man competition. In track it is man against himself, the cruelest of all opponents. The other runners are not the real enemies. His adversary lies deep within him, in his ability, with brain and heart, to control and master himself and his emotions.”

Glenn Cunningham was an American miler. When he was six, Glenn and his older brother Floyd had an accident heating up their kitchen stove, resulting in Floyd’s death. Glenn’s legs were so badly burned it was feared he would never walk again. After several weeks in bed, he was able to walk on crutches. Finally, he got rid of the crutches but, as he said later, “It hurt like thunder to walk, but it didn’t hurt at all when I ran. So for five or six years, about all I did was run.” Cunningham finished fourth in the 1932 Olympic 1500m in Los Angeles. Four years later in Berlin, 1936, he put on a burst of speed in the third lap to try to break away from the field, but had to settle for silver behind OUAC legend, Jack Lovelock.

Danny Harris

“No negative thoughts cross my mind on race day. When I look into their eyes, I know I’m going to beat them.”

Danny Harris was another American athlete. Harris had a fairly turbulent career including facing a drug ban for a persistent cocaine addiction. Nevertheless, the guy was a bit of a legend, as you can tell from the quote. Harris was perhaps most famous for bringing Edwin Moses’ 122 race, 10 year unbeaten streak to an end in 1987. That year he won bronze in the world champs, 2 100ths of a second behind the winner, Moses, in probably the greatest 400H race ever run (Harald Schmid, the German, was 2nd). His Pb for the 400H was 47.38s.

Emil Zatopek

“The athlete of today is not an athlete alone. He’s the centre of a team – doctors, scientists, coaches, agents and so on. My running was very simple; it was out of myself. Perhaps sometimes I was like a mad dog. It didn’t matter about style or what it looked like to others; there were records to break. Two months before the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, the doctors said I must not compete. I had a gland infection in my neck. Well I didn’t listen and what happened? Three golds. The sportsman, the real sportsman, knows what is inside him.”

Emil Zatopek of the former Czechoslovakia can claim one of track’s rarest feats – winning the 5000m, 10,000m and marathon in a single Olympic Games (Helsinki, 1952). Beating the best of the world in the two track events in front of an enthusiastic Finnish crowd was not enough for Zatopek. To this day, only four other men have achieved this Olympic double. But Zatopek, a man who knew how to fight pain and fatigue, wanted more. Three days after his second victory on the track, he lined up to start his first ever marathon. Eager to avoid mistakes, he stayed close to specialists, Jim Peters of Great Britain and Gustav Jansson of Sweden. He soon found their pace too slow and surged ahead to win in Olympic record time: 2:23:04. In later years, the ever-modest Zatopek would recall that race as “the easiest of my career.” Zatopek had previously won the 10K and come 2nd in the 5K at the London Olympics of 1948. During his long career, Zatopek set 20 world records at distances ranging from 5000 to 30,000m. Zatopek sounds like he was a bit of a nutcase. He ran with an awful style which probably reflected the pain he used to put his body through – his training regime was revolutionary in its severity, as much as by its quality. Zatopek loved his racing and training. He was known for talking to his rivals during his races, speculating on who was going to win – a tactic also employed by Bannister when representing Oxford.

Steve Prefontaine

“Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.”

Stevie P was a talented young American was made famous as much by his attitude to racing and the huge, popular following that surrounded him, as by his racing record. The greatest American distance runner of his time and a precocious young athlete (Pre came 4th in the Munich Olympics 5k, aged only 21), Pre died in a car accident, with his best years still to come. Pre was, above all, a nutter. He ran gutsy races and had a stupid moustache. He would’ve made a fine member of OUAC.

Steve Ovett

“You find out a lot about yourself through athletics. If you’re cut out to be a winner or a failure or a quitter, athletics will bring it out of you. You’re always stripping yourself down to the bones of your personality. And sometimes you just get a glimpse of the kind of talent you’ve been given. Sometimes I run and I don’t even feel the effort of running. I don’t even feel the ground. I’m just drifting. Incredible feeling. All the agony and frustration, they’re all justified by one moment like that.”

Ovett was an awesome runner from a young age, running 48.4s for 400m aged only 15. As a runner, he was versatile, tactically astute and was gifted with a devastatingly fast kick. From 1977 to 1980, he was never beaten in the 1500m or mile, finishing every race the same way, with a kick home with 200m left. He effectively was saying to his opposition: “You know how I’m going to race. Try and beat me.” And they couldn’t. Ovett won Olympic gold at Moscow in the 800m, with a bronze in the 1500m, in two epic battles with Seb Coe. Although he was accused of being brash, arrogant and the rest, he was a legend in the OUAC mold.

Said Aouita

“Those who say that I will lose and am finished will have to run over my body to beat me.”

Said Aouita was one of the best middle distance athletes of the 80’s. The first of the great Moroccans, Aouita won World and Olympic titles, dominating events from 800m to 5K. In the Los Angeles Olympics, Aouita surprised everyone by running the 5,000 meters, a race beyond his normal range. Aouita blew away the field in a scintillating 13:05.5. Aouita was unimpressed with his run, saying afterwards, “It was a very easy run. Usually I like more of a challenge.” In 1987, he was the first man to run under 13 minutes for the 5K. Aouita said, “I am the top runner in the world. There is not a race tactic in the world that can beat me.” He kept his training secrets under wraps, only offering a glimpse of his tremendous talents during competition.

Michael Johnson

“I have been described as confident or cocky or arrogant. I’ll take the first one. My confidence is knowing that I have probably trained harder than anyone I am going to run against. And that is because of self-discipline.”

“I believe the first step is knowing yourself. I think that most people have an innate sense of what they want and how to get there. No matter what it is you owe it to yourself to figure out what you are chasing and how you might catch it.”

“You must understand, I am not by nature a day dreamer. I try to control, those parts of my life that can be controlled, to plan everything that I want to happen down to the most insignificant detail. I traffic in a world in which fractions of a second separate success and failure, so I’d visualized the 1996 Olympics down to the millisecond. I’d crafted a decade of dreams into ambitions, ambitions into goals, and finally hammered goals into plans.”

“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.”

“Perfection. In the end, I suppose that’s why I run, not just for the other runners on the track or for the people in the stands or watching on television, not just because of the pressure inside or out, certainly not just because of the records or the desire to make history. Those things are all part of it, of course, but the reason is larger than any of them. I just wonder sometimes: Is it possible to run a perfect race? There is a saying amongst some athletes that after you have stared long enough into the dragon’s eyes, there is nothing left to do but slay the dragon. For each of us, that dragon is the thing closest to the center of our lives. It is our core, our ambition and our joy. For me, it is the perfect race.”

Michael Johnson was the greatest ever 200m and 400m runner, Johnson was in a different league to his rivals. No one could touch him. He finished his career with 13 major championship medals (World or Olympic). Every one of them was gold. Undoubtedly, the highlight of his career was 1996, where having got the Olympic timetable reorganised, he set about and achieved his aim of being the first man to ever win the 200m and 400m at the Olympic Games. His 200m victory was the most memorable race I’ve ever seen. His winning time and mind-blowing world record of 19.32s, provoked the following response from bronze medallist, Ato Boldon: “Nineteen-point-three-two. That’s not a time. It sounds like my dad’s birth date.” Johnson approached his athletics in a methodical and intelligent manner. He set out to dominate and he did precisely that. His training involved 800m sessions which any other sprinter would simply not be capable of completing. His coach once commented, “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those doing it.”

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