For athletes, the difference between striving for greatness and achieving it comes down to preparing and executing more than just being “good at something”.
For this year’s NAIA Indoor Track National Meet we brought 19 athletes. In this post, I’ll interview three of these athletes (Jake, Kevin, and Cathy) and talk about how each of them prepares, executes, and learns from a major race such as nationals. After that, I’ll analyze these answers and boil it down what common things these athletes do that can be applied to more daily life situations.
First, we’ll start off with what these athletes were thinking about before the race, how they planned on learning from previous nationals, how they applied what they know to this year’s nationals, and how they all felt going into their races. For Jake, the freshmen sprinter, this was his first nationals race. He said that he prepared by sleeping in, “…ate some good food. Gonna warmup up, I rolled, drank a lot of water…that’s about it.”
Kevin and Cathy are both veterans of the team, Kev being a junior and captain of the Cross Country team, and Cathy being a senior. This is Kev’s 6th nationals. His first nationals experience was his freshmen year for Indoor Track and Field, running the 1k. Looking back on that, he commented that he wished he would have “Run for the win, not the fast time.” He says this because he didn’t qualify for finals, not being able to get out of prelims due to his focus on time and not position.
For Cathy, this is her 9th nationals, and will be one of her last. Her first nationals experience was when she was a freshmen going to Cross Country Nationals. “It did not go well” she says. On what she would tell herself if she could go back in time, she said that she would’ve “told me to set something up, a personal, individual goal to hit that meet time-wise and have more fun with it. Just race.” When talking about whether she was more excited or nervous, she said “Half and half. But that’s pretty good compared to the last few years. Usually, I’m more nervous than excited. But, I’m half and half today.”
So how do these multiple national attendees prepare for their race? For Kev, he pointed out how he was preparing both physically and mentally. Physically, he’s toning down the intensity of his runs more than usual. Mentally, he’s been “preparing for doubling races” as he has to run both prelims and finals for the DMR. He says he gets confidence from doing “more of that this year as well.” Cathy’s prep is a little bit different, focusing on hydration, sleeping, and “doing some shake out runs…I don’t want to lay around all day [in the hotel].”
On race day, they all have to run their various legs for the DMR.
Thoughts before they got the baton:
Jake: “Ok, we’re a little behind. Can we do this? I need to make up time.”
Kevin: “I thought of the good doubles that I had recently, and that I had raced less than…80% of the guys who also had to run [my leg].
Cathy: “I’m going to race Molly (runner with maroon jersey). I’ll stay behind her for two laps, then pass her at the end.”
After their races, I asked them what they thought of their races, what they learned, and whether they would have prepared or run any of it differently. Both Kevin and Cathy expressed how they did well, but could have done one or two small things to improve. For Kev, he wished he could have gotten more sleep. Cathy expressed a hint of regret when it came to her race, saying “Wish I had been a little riskier though. I could have afforded to take a risk today. I didn’t realize how slow the person I was racing was going.”
As for pushing past any kind of pain that occurred during the race, Kev talked about the accountability that he feels when racing on relay teams: “Knowing that your team is depending on you. setting an example that you’ll do anything for the team, no matter how much it’ll hurt.”
Jake also felt this sense of performing well since his teammates were counting on him and vice versa: “[I] knew that I had to run as fast as I could and do it for them [my teammates]. [I] saw the guy ahead of me and thought ‘I had to get him.'”
How well did these guys do? Well, the girls DMR got 7th in the nation (which is good for All-American), and the guy’s DMR got National Runner Up. For specific times, go here for the guy’s DMR, and click here for the girl’s DMR.
How did each of these runners feel about getting All-American?
Kevin: “Great to get that chip off your shoulder after missing it by .5 seconds two years in a row.
Cathy: *Starts to talk, but gets interrupted by her boyfriend* Bf: “Earlier, you said that it was a dream come true!!”
Cathy: “Yea, it was. Now though, I’m thinking ‘ok, let’s go for another.'”
Jake: “Feels pretty good”
How would this look on the track of life and getting ready for some big life event? Well, looking at what was talked about above, we can garner a few things that they all have in common. For one, Kev and Cathy had to apply what they’ve learned in the past to their respective races. Cathy’s nerves didn’t get the best of her this year, whereas in years past they have. For Kev, he knew that focusing on positioning high up is more important than getting a fast time, something he learned from his 1k his freshman year.
I think a part of this is confidence. In order to achieve anything in life, you just have to be confident. This comes naturally with experience, but can also be self-generated. Also, having a healthy mindset and knowing what you need to do to accomplish your goals is also impertinent.
Also, having others to depend on is a blessing from God indeed. For each of these athletes, they expressed great trust in their fellow relay runners to do their job, and vice versa. Kev, being a natural leader and captain of the team, expressed his job by saying “Knowing that your team is depending on you. setting an example that you’ll do anything for the team, no matter how much it’ll hurt.
Being able to adapt to ever changing circumstances is also important getting things done. In Kevin’s video, you could see that throughout the race, the runner in blue kept with him throughout the race, never backing down. This certainly wasn’t in the plan for Kev, as he was simply worried about catching up to the pack of runners up front. However, he was able to stick to his guns, and executed his race plan despite tough competition.
Having a plan, preparing, executing despite changing circumstances, and moving on to bigger and better things are all touched on by these three runners. These are things that I believe, are important things to consider when trying to accomplish something in life, whether it be big or small.