I first saw Jesús Ángel García Bragado at the 1997 World Cup in the Czech Republic. I raced the 20k, so I was able to watch his come-from-behind victory in the 50k the following day. García was 27 at the time, and was already a grizzled veteran, having won the 1993 World Championship 50k.
In two weeks, incredibly, García will compete in his 12th consecutive World Championships–a record for any event in track & field. What makes García’s accomplishment even more astounding is that he doesn’t compete for some 3rd-rate walking nation, but for Spain, year in, year out, one of the strongest squads on the planet. García, at the ripe old age of 45, had to walk well under 4:00 hours to punch his ticket to Beijing.
García’s amazing longevity in the sport at such a high level inspires me to do more. What struck me most about him in 1997, and every time I’ve seen him since, is his technique. While most of his peers have impecable style, García’s technique is labored, almost ungainly. Nothing is given to him; he works for every step, for every second. Another Jesus walked on water, this guy looks like he’s walking under water.
Knowing that I’ll be doing the US 40k Championship in a few weeks as a long, easy (hopefully!) workout, I knocked out 25k today with my wife and training partner Loretta. Although the pace was about 30 seconds per km slower than what I’ll need to earn my own small historical footnote by qualifying for an 8th consecutive Olympic Trials, now training at fully half the distance I’m starting to feel that the goal is attainable.
Throughout the workout I channeled García, at times mimicking his technique, and on my last 5km loop, grimacing the way I’ve often seen him do it as I pushed the pace well under my 5:42-per-kilometer Trials qualifying pace.
On August 28th I’ll be glued to the web cast, watching García walk into the history books. And over the coming months, as my miles get longer, the pace gets faster, and the going gets tougher, if ever I have a moment of doubt or weakness, I’ll be sure to ask myself “What would Jesús do?”