I did not always have a good engine nor was I very good at running at all. In fact, when I joined the indoor track team as a sophomore in high school, I was unable to complete a mile on the track without having to stop. This was a serious blow to my ego because I’d been figure skating since I was 5 and I’d played several years of tennis. I thought I was “in shape”. I will never forget that feeling of disappointment when I couldn’t finish a mile. I was put on the field team to throw shotput because I wasn’t good enough for any of the running events. I was too slow to be a sprinter and not conditioned enough to be on the distance team. So, I spent the indoor season throwing the shotput poorly.
During this time, we had a transition in the coaching staff and two soccer coaches were filling in. To be honest, they were out of their element and really only knew how to work with fast runners. I didn’t get the support I needed from them, but couldn’t accept that I wouldn’t be able to run, so I started running on my own. There was a church parking lot a block or so from my house and I decided to pick a number of laps to complete without stopping. I started with 2, then moved to 3, and 4, and so on. I didn’t know much about pacing or anything, I just knew that the only way I’d be able to run a mile without stopping would be to push the limits of my body to run for as long as it could.
The next year I met Coach Mike Williams. He became the full-time Track & Field and Cross-Country coach at Catholic High. He made us do burpees, hill sprints, lunges around the track, and MANY laps around Lake Montebello. He helped transform me into a better runner and athlete with his experience, a no-nonsense style of coaching, and his convincing belief in me. One day on our way to a meet, he opened his coaching binder and handed me a strip of tattered paper he’d had taped to it. The paper had a poem on it, “The Man Who Thinks He Can” by Walter D. Wintle.
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost,
For out in the world we find
Success being with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outclassed, you are:
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.
This became my mantra. I would read it over and over until eventually, I committed the first few lines to memory. After track practice, I would hear it and it called me to run another mile even after my teammates had left. I’ve said it at the start line at almost all of my races. I heard it in my head the night I raced in the dark to beat my mile record. It was there when I PR’d my half marathon and it’s there every time I do MURPH.
The point here is that our mindset about what we are capable of and what is “good enough” must be challenged in order for us to find greatness. When looking at something you want to get better at and then deciding to work on it means that just doing the movement or just going for a run can’t be IT. You need to push harder in that workout with wall balls because you told yourself you needed to do them to get BETTER. Just doing them to say you did them won’t make you better. Challenge your ability to hang on for longer. Challenge the quality of your movement. Challenge your belief of what you think you can do. That’s the special sauce, y’all. That’s where the magic happens.