Wednesday 8 Oct 2014
Last week I wrote about my Me1 Vs Me2 Podcast, in which I recapture the spirit of my youth by inexpertly playing myself at snooker in my basement.
It’s a ridiculous way for a 47-year-old man to behave, yet the self-competition at the heart of it may have unexpected lessons for all sportsmen. Before the Olympics one of the UK archery squad emailed me to say he uses the Me1 Vs Me2 technique to make boring training sessions slightly less boring. Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker might have actually helped our country win Olympic gold (it didn’t – I don’t think he got selected, but still…).
Some of you are thinking that sportsmen have always competed against themselves, spurring themselves onwards to beat their personal best. But Me1 Vs Me2 sports psychology is more refined, as I discovered when I applied it to my running.
I am taking part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday (raising money for Scope –sponsor me at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardHerring), so I decided to alternate between “being” Me1 and Me2 on my training runs. It became apparent that the two versions of myself absolutely hate each other. Me1 is the happily married conformist who always wants to be seen to say the right thing, Me2, the rebellious, untameable renegade who’ll never settle down. The animosity this creates spurs both runners on to better the other. It turns out that your greatest opponent is literally yourself.
My regular run along the Thames is about 6.75 miles. On his first run Me1 completed it in just over an hour. Me2 was so determined to wipe the smug smile off his opponent’s (and thus own) face that on his next run he broke the 60-minute barrier.
He was 110% focused on himself, not Me1, being the first runner in all Me history to do a sub-hour 6.75mile, and consequently sprinted up the home stretch. He had my iPhone in his hand in stopwatch mode and in his haste actually overshot my front gate. He turned, tried to stop the stopwatch at the same time, tripped and went flying, landing in a heap on the pavement. Though I was in some pain and bleeding, Me2’s main concern was to get the stopwatch stopped so he could prove he was a record breaker. The screen had shattered in the impact, but Me2 didn’t care. He had done a Roger Bannister and knew he would be in the record books for all time. Admittedly these were quite specific record books detailing one scarcely adequate and borderline mentally ill person’s best speed over quite an irregular distance. But that’s enough for Me2. If you sneer it’s just because you’re jealous.
Luckily the time was verified and no lasting damage was done to my body, but it did cost almost £100 to fix my smashed smartphone.
I actually feel a little scared that one half of me could resent the other so much. But Me1 wasn’t going to take this humiliation lying down. On his next run he took an incredible five minutes off the record, stayed on his feet throughout and didn’t destroy any expensive gadgets. Given it took me 80 minutes to do this distance in January, that’s a strong endorsement for the system. I am happy to coach any national team to glory, though you will have to pay both the Mes full salary.
The big question is which Me will run the race on Sunday. I have a sneaky plan to let Me1 do the first half and then switch to Me2. Fresh pair of legs. I might win the thing.