Last Friday I ran a debut track race, the 5000 at the Aztec Invitational. After a slow start to the season, battling a few illnesses and minor injuries, this was my first real test of the season. Knowing I wasn’t in top form, I still believed I was in shape to run a PR (previously 15:07… foreshadowing…) so my #1 goal was to run sub-15, with hopes to surprise myself with a little more. My hopes for the season were initially to be in 14:40 shape by this point, but I was keeping an open mind given that I hadn’t done a true tempo workout in months other than two road races with unimpressive results.
The first mile went out right at goal pace (4:45) and we were hitting consistent splits. It was about that time that my teammate, Nick, gave me an encouraging word as we rounded the bend of the track, “Tyler, you’re the best runner out here right now!” Those words sent my mind racing (pun intended). My first thought was that “he must see something on our faces or in our strides that I can’t see” and then I thought “he actually believes that.” Those were the good thoughts. Then my mind went south, “I don’t know if I am…”
Fast forward. I ran 14:56 and finished second. Eleven second PR. Out-kicked by 3 seconds.
I look back now and believe that I could have beat that ONE guy in front of me. Maybe I didn’t have as good of a kick as he did, but I could have pushed at 1200, 800, and 400 to go. I could have made him HURT! I could have pushed the pace! Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not the point. The point is that when Nick told me that I was the best runner on the track, I didn’t believe him. I DID NOT BELIEVE IN MYSELF. I was content to sit in second, race for second, kick just enough for second, let him pull away, and say “He’s better than you today, Tyler.” Far too often I get deep into a race and my self-doubt dictates the outcome. It’s easy to believe in your goals halfway through a midweek long run, before a race, or after a good speed workout. It’s hard to believe yourself when the Pain Train is starting to roll and you have a long way to go.
It’s amazing what our own thoughts and beliefs can do for our performance. Think about it. How much you believe the food will be good will dictate how readily you try a new restaurant. How much you believe in your ability to perform at a job will dictate how confident you are in an interview. In my own life, how much I believe that God is real and good dictates how much my decisions are based on faith. What you believe has such a huge impact on your actions. I think back to other races that I have executed well and my belief in myself was much higher early on, at the halfway point, and late in the race. Racing well isn’t just about training your body- it’s about training your mind to push your body to it’s limits of fitness and pain! If your mind isn’t performing, your body won’t either (not to its ability anyway). Nick’s words will ring in my ears for a while. I’m grateful for them and I realize I have much to learn about believing in myself. It won’t be until I actually believe in myself that I’ll begin to tap into my full potential.