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Percy Cerutty - charlatan or genius?


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  • Percy Cerutty - charlatan or genius?

    Was Cerutty a terrific coach or simply someone who struck it lucky by "discovering" Herb Elliott. Certainly John Landy didn't make the big breakthrough until after he had rejected Percy's methods. Also, Percy seems to contradict himself many times; for example, he rejected the idea of training on the track, but greatly admired Zatopek who, of course, used to do mammoth track sessions.

  • #2
    Picking up a slim paper-covered 30-page volume years ago called "Running with Cerrutty" and reading its descriptions of running in the sand dunes of Portsea, where "we run as we feel, but we rarely feel tired," and "running . . . is not a sport or a physical activity so much as being a complete expression of ourselves" was literally a life changer. There was nothing remotely similar that I'd encountered in reading not only about training, but life. The idea that athletes could escape from being automatons, could "exult in our liberty, free movement, capacity to choose" and "run with joy, sheer beauty and strength," and that he had all this going on in a remote training camp somewhere far away in Australia: "We train along paths that are found along the cliff tops, descending at times to beach level, in the midst of some of the finest scenery in our state. We run for miles on the heavy sand with the great waves crashing and pounding and swirling, at times, to knee depth as we run. Or we run upon the golf links, or moors, or some speed work, occasionally on the grassed oval in one of hte prettiest and most natural amphitheaters, surely in this world. Here in this environment, over this terrain, the spirit of beauty and high endeavor enters our souls." He was a free spirit, with a power to motivate. A later volume by disciple Larry Myers showed how goofy some of Percy's ideas were when it came to technique.
    But how many coaches can claim more than one world beater? He started very late in life, and no question he took Elliott to the top, though even Elliott had difficulties with him at times. And he appeared to have at least numerous other national-class runners in his stable. Anyway, he was unique and deserves to be in the pantheon of coaches -- if only for his inspiration.


    • #3
      In terms of bios of Cerutty, a recent one called "Why die?" by Graem Sims is well worth a look too: ... 05401.html


      • #4
        I should have written, "We run as we feel, but we rarely feel lazy" rather than tired.


        • #5
          Re: Percy Cerutty - charlatan or genius?

          Originally posted by FrankS
          Also, Percy seems to contradict himself many times...
          Being a coach is about communicating with your athlete. Sometimes, you tell someone something and you just know they didn't get it. So you try telling it a different way, a different explanation, a different demonstration. You try a new analogy or metaphor and you keep trying until they get it. In doing this you will sometimes contradict yourself, but as a coach the contradiction is irrelevant, what matters is the message.

          Some athletes get hung up on these contradictions and miss the message. The ones that ignore the contradictions and work on finding the message are the ones that make progress and get results.

          To me, saying that Cerutty "sometimes contradicted himself" is a compliment; it shows he is trying to communicate rather than just talk.

          I would also like to add, with reference to your comment re. Zatopek, that it is possible to admire a man without necessarily agreeing with everything he says and does.
          the baton is meant to be passed on