The Central Governor: essential food for endurance thought

It’s been at least a couple of years since I last cracked open Professor Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running. This phonebook-thick tome is like the Bible – long, full of stories, relevant to a limited number of people, but well worth a look.

The section on Yiannis Kouros, arguably the greatest of all endurance runners, should be mandatory reading for all ultra aspirants. The other section that should rate as compulsory for anybody running marathon and beyond is the section on the Central Governor. In the ’90s, Noakes reinvigorated a Nobel Laureate’s theory from over 70 years beforehand, proposing that a process tied closely to the brain and nervous system grounded fatigue as an internal process effecting muscular recruitment capacity, rather than a peripherally produced state experienced centrally.

Reading an article just now at by Joe Uhan has reminded me how valuable and juicy Noakes’ work continues to be for the hungry ultra-mind. This quote from the Professor is inarguably salacious:

“Fatigue is merely an emotional expression of the subjective symptoms that develop as these subconscious controls wage a fierce battle with the conscious mind to ensure that the conscious ultimately submits to the superior will of the subconscious.”

Central Governor Theory isn’t as apocalyptic and drab as it might sound, and the article posted here at iRunFar is probably as gentle and clear an introduction as you’re going to get. It goes, perhaps, a little off-topic by prescribing a set running technique as the best way to avoid being shut down on a 100-mile run by your Central Governor, but the essential understanding of why a body under exertion can react against itself is highly worth consideration.

Uhan’s article here…

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