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Emil Zatopek

Emil Zatopek


Emil Zatopek is one of the most legendary of runners the world has ever seen.

In honor of his birthday, this September 19. We thought we would share a bit of information about him.


Emil Zatopek is one of the most legendary of runners the world has ever seen.

In honor of his birthday, this September 19. We thought we would share a bit of information about him.

Before the 1952 Olympics, Emil had never ran a marathon. During the games he set Olympic records and thus obviously won the 5k, 10k, and marathon.

Due to his odd running form, he was nicknamed the the “bouncing Czech”. Setting 18 world records, he dominated distance running from 1948 to 1954 when he won 38 10k events in a row and was the first person in history to cover 10,000m in under 29 minutes.

Emil was one of the first athletes to start progressive and structured interval workouts. In his prime he would build to workouts of 10x200m, 40x400m, and 10x200m.

He was also a man of strong character. There is a story that after being visited by Ron Clarke (who never won Olympic gold) in 1968, he provided a gift to him and said “This is for you Ron, not in friendship, but because you deserve it” and not to open it until after they part. Inside was his 10,000 Olympic gold medal from Helsinki.


“Men, today we die a little.”
Emil Zatopek at the start of the 1956 Olympic Marathon.

“Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.”

“When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn’t matter. Am I tired? That doesn’t matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem.”

“A runner must run with dreams in his heart, not money in his pocket.”

“To boast of a performance which I cannot beat is merely stupid vanity. And if I can beat it that means there is nothing special about it.”

“What has passed is already finished with. What I find more interesting is what is still to come.”

“There is a great advantage in training under unfavorable conditions. It is better to train under bad conditions, for the difference is then a tremendous relief in a race.”

“If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”

“You can’t climb up to the second floor without a ladder….When you set your aim too high and don’t fulfill it, then your enthusiasm turns to bitterness.
Try for a goal that’s reasonable, and then gradually raise it.”

“After all those dark days of the war, the bombing, the killing, the starvation, the revival of the Olympics was as if the sun had come out….I went into the Olympic Village and suddenly there were no more frontiers, no more barriers. Just the people meeting together. It was wonderfully warm. Men and women who had just lost five years of life were back again.”
Emil Zatopek, about the 1948 London Olympics.

Emil Zatopek describes his marathon win at the Helsinki Olympics,
“I was unable to walk for a whole week after that, so much did the race take out of me. But it was the most pleasant exhaustion I have ever known.”

When asked about his tortured expression during races,
Emil Zatopek said, “It is not gymnastics or ice skating you know.”

“There are three things worth living for: American luxury, Japanese women and Chinese food,”
Emil Zatopek said, joking.

“When I was young, I was too slow. I thought I must learn to run fast by practicing to run fast, so I ran 100 meters fast 20 times. Then I came back, slow,slow,slow. People said, ‘Emil, you are crazy. You are training like a sprinter.'”

Emil Zatopek on Interval Training, “Everyone said, ‘Emil, you are a fool!’ But when I first won the European Championship, they said: ‘Emil, you are a genius!'”

“It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys.”

“He does everything wrong but win.”
Larry Snyder, Ohio State track coach, about Emil Zatopek’s contorted style of running.

“Great is the victory, but the friendship is all the greater.”

Tags: Motivation

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