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.

Payton Jordan 5000m
The finish of Payton Jordan. Photo Credit: Track and Field Photo Magazine

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]


4 Comment

  1. Samantha says: Reply

    go Andrea go!!!

  2. Faith says: Reply

    Great post Andrea. I think what you shared here on self belief is applicable to so many people – no matter what their goal is.

  3. J Staehli says: Reply

    Such a great read!

  4. debbie munro says: Reply

    Hi Andrea, my name is Debbie, I’m Robbin’s sister. Your dad called and told me you won your race and where I could go to watch the video. My husband and I were at his place a few weeks ago and he and Robbin were telling us all about how you were trying for the Olympics and your running times and how you were trying to get your time down to qualify. I watched your video and I think your are amazing. What an accomplishment! You must be so proud of yourself. I just wanted to congratulate you and wish you the best of luck in Edmonton. I have no doubt that you will make the Canadian team and live your Olympic dream. GOOD LUCK! 🙂

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