Lessons in Self Belief from the Olympic Chase
Coming into this season, a lot of people asked me if I was “going for” the Olympics this summer. My heart said, “of course”! Why else would I be racing this season if not to try to make the Olympics? But my logic would say, “I don’t know.” I had only run 15:52 before this season, which is a far cry from the Olympic standard of 15:24. I was also coming off an injury and a year of many changes. I didn’t feel like I deserved to say that I was chasing an Olympic standard, but I had a faint belief that it was possible. While running post-collegiately, my goal has always been to make a major championship team. This year is no different.
I opened my 2016 outdoor track season with a 5000m at the Stanford Invite on April 1st. Having not raced a 5000 since 2014, the race was a shock both physically and mentally. I was running a great race until 1200m to go. I didn’t have the focus to stay with the leaders through the last 3 laps, but still managed to run a personal best by 13 seconds to finish in 15:39.88.
I was disappointed in myself after this race for not believing that I belonged with the women who were chasing the Olympic standard as well. I didn’t think I deserved to be up front battling and I doubted my ability to stay with them. I let myself fall off the pack while not being overly physically tired. I swore I would never do this again after that race.
April was then spent cultivating confidence and a realization that there is nothing saying that I can’t make the Olympic team. I knew I needed to change what I was telling myself. The current state of your life is a result of the stories you tell yourself, and what you really believe is possible- not what you say is possible. I was telling a story of coming close, but not making it. I needed to start believing deep down in my core that this is possible.
Last Sunday, I raced another 5000m at Payton Jordan, returning to Palo Alto hoping to come away with that standard. Instead of focusing on the time outcome, I went into the race hoping for a focused and dialed in race where I stayed mentally strong. I knew I would be happy with that. The standard was on my mind, I believed I could run it, but I wasn’t fixated on it. Although our pace wasn’t fast enough from the gun, I ran bravely, I believed I belonged among the leaders and raced to win. I came away with another personal best, running 15:31.67 and nearly won my heat.
I’m now a mere 8 seconds away from the standard and I know that time is completely within my reach. I feel I have solidified myself as an “Olympic hopeful.” I trust in my fitness and the next challenge is getting into a race that is fast enough for me to run that time.
What I’ve noticed about myself in these two race experiences is that I’m enjoying these races much more than I used to. Whatever happens this year, Olympics or not, I’ll know that I enjoyed the process. I want this goal to happen. I want to be an Olympian. I now completely, and fully believe that I can make this team. But I’m not going to let this big goal get in the way of enjoying the personal improvements, both in personal bests and self-belief, that come along the way.
[Thank you to Dan Gorman for the featured photo of this post]