Eric also described himself as a "heart runner." Here's how Eric characterizes "heart runners" and "head runners":
"To me, a heart runner runs races for the joy of pushing their limits. Winning is not so important, except for the effort it takes to win raises one to a higher level of speed and performance. Times also are not that relevant. What's important is the run. To run freely, smoothly and strongly: that's what it is all about. They do not go out and calculate a predetermined pace to net them a certain time or performance; they just run their hearts out every race. Heart runners are not consistent with their races, no matter how talented they are, simply because they do not worry about saving energy for later. They are going for broke every race and, if the bodies hold up, they have awesome runs. If they tip over into the red zone for long enough, they have spectacular failures. I think both outcomes are great. Head runners are nice guys (and gals) but I truly love and respect heart runners."In his prime, Eric was well-known for going out hard and staying at a blistering pace. That's what got him all those course records and wins, including his amazing 5:46 course record at the JFK 50-Mile--a record that stood for 17 years. (Eric is perhaps best known for his prominent role in "Running on the Sun," a fascinating documentary about the 1999 Badwater Ultramarathon, which he won. Click here to watch the entire documentary.) But it's also what led to a number of DNF's. From what I've learned and been told, in a race Eric Clifton either did something amazing, or he crashed and burned. There was never a middle ground with him. I admire that.
I think there's a connection between being a heart runner and reaching that point where you either break down or finally break through. This raises a whole bunch of questions. Is it worth it to throw 100 percent of yourself into your runs--every ounce of your heart and soul--even if it means breaking down and/or not reaching the finish line? Yeah, the risk of failure or injury is there, but there's also a huge potential payoff. Of course, you have to put in the necessary training, or else your hopes will be dashed almost every time. But what if we all trained with 100 percent of our heart, never going through the motions, and always went out guns blazing in races? What if we all risked spectacular failure in a quest for the ultimate race? Do we train like zombies and race "carefully" because we are afraid of failure? And is going out hard, only to crash and burn, really failure?
I think to be a heart runner and to run with guns blazing, you have to train hard and believe in yourself. When the gun goes off and you explode out of the gate, running those early miles with the field behind you, you have to believe in your heart that you will succeed--through the good moments and those awful dark moments. If you don't believe, or if you have ever faint doubts, you will fail, or change your approach to a "safer" strategy. But is "safe" really fulfilling?
Are you a heart runner, or a head runner?