Preparing for Big Race Moments with Brooks' Isaiah Harris

A man wearing a Brooks jacket posing for a photo

Isaiah Harris is no stranger to pressure. He regularly lines up against the best 800-meter runners in the world to chase down championship medals, podium spots and the chance to represent Team USA on the biggest stages.

Haris found success in his high school days as a standout in Lewiston, Maine. In 2018, he captured the NCAA Outdoor Championship title as a junior for Penn State. Now, he lives in Seattle and trains with the Brooks Beasts Track Club, home to some of the sport’s most recognizable names.

We sat down with Harris to talk about training, preparing for big race moments and bouncing back from tough results.

A person posing for a photo on a track

FF: You recently switched sponsors and became part of the Brooks Beasts Track Club. What was the transition like for you?

IH: I officially joined Brooks in December and went to Albuquerque with the team for training camp in January. The transition was pretty smooth, I already knew a bunch of people on the team from racing against them and there was even an overlap with some Penn State teammates. Joining the team and adapting to the team environment was easy since I had those prior relationships. In terms of training, it was also smooth because Coach Danny Mackey has a similar coaching style as my college coach. The general structure of the week is the same, we workout on the same days with the same style workouts. There were some new things that he did like new sets of drills and more plyometrics, but that stuff was all pretty easy to learn. Once I started racing indoors I felt the best I've ever felt while racing so it was a good sign that the training was working. My outdoor season has been a little slower because I tore my hamstring in March, so I've been just trying to come back into full form since then, which has been a little behind schedule.

Last March I made the World Indoor Championship team in the 800 meters, made it to the final and got 7th place. Then, Team USA needed someone to run the 4x4 relay leg in the preliminary round. I love the 4x4 so I agreed. 200 meters into the race as I tried to make a move and start my kick, I felt a pop in my hamstring. It was out of nowhere. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the sport.

FF: You’ve competed in many major competitions, including the USATF Outdoor Championships and the World Indoor Championships. How do you mentally prepare for these big race moments? What are you thinking about when you’re standing on the start line?

IH: I try to approach every race the same way so that it doesn't add too much pressure when I get to a bigger meet. I like to race, I don't want to be stressed about racing, so I look at it as the fun part of things. We train so hard and go through hell in practice and racing is finally the fun part. I think just being consistent, approaching every race the same way and looking at it as a fun opportunity to do well helps take the stress away. The worst thing that could happen is that you don't run well, but you can always get back to work and change things and then do really well in your next race.

FF: Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

IH: I don’t have any lucky socks or anything weird like that. The one thing I do before every race, usually the night before, is visualize the race. I go through everything from heading to the track, doing my warm up, getting on the track and envisioning the race going a few different ways. I picture it going the way I want it to go, with me sitting near the front and kicking at the end, but I also envision having to lead from the start or getting pushed to the back. This helps me prepare for anything because once you get out there you never know how the race is going to go.

A man holding up his arm before a race on a track

FF: You mentioned in an interview that you were disappointed with your result in the World Indoor Championships 800 meter final. How do you deal with disappointing races, and how do you bounce back?

IH: Something I've been saying a lot this year is that you have to have a short term memory in this sport. You can't dwell on a bad performance or practice because it only takes one good race to turn everything around. I don't think one bad race defines your career.

I usually give myself some time, at least through the rest of the day if not just an hour, to be upset about the bad race. After that I start thinking about what I can do to get better and be more prepared next time so I don't make the same mistakes. After indoors, Coach Danny told me to write down what I want to do differently and what I would change from the race. I wrote down a note that I wanted to get out faster and looked at that before my outdoor races. It brought me back to the race and to those feelings. I knew that I felt this way because I didn't do this in the last race, so I know I have to do it in the next one.

Follow along on social media as Isaiah trains for and competes in his next race, the Ed Murphey Classic on July 30th.

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