I have yet to meet anyone who signs up for a race and hopes that it goes horribly wrong. Typically, we start every endeavor with great expectations. However, we usually sign our name on the dotted line without much forethought to how we're actually going to accomplish our goals.
The key is to stay calm as the reality of our self-inflicted dilemma washes over us. Many a race day has gone awry due to poor planning and/or poor execution. When considering how to plan for success, remember: choose excellence.
As Aristotle observed, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
How do you choose excellence? Well, your first step is to decide what your goal is. What do you want to get out of this experience? We are all different. We sign up for races for unique reasons. Because of that, each one of us must choose our destination so we can plot a course to best reach that end. If you are deliberate in planning your future, you will be more apt to fulfill your aspirations.
To successfully reach your goal, it is important to remember to leave your pride by the wayside. We typically set forth doing what we deem best. However, we are rarely the foremost expert in the field. We must learn to ask and accept help from those who have the capabilities to assist us in our path. The internet is convenient and our fellow running friends are helpful, but finding an expert to help you focus your training is an effective way to choose excellence.
At the same time, even though we must dismiss our egos, we must also remain proud of our goals. Everyone comes to the starting line with a different story and a different mission, but all of our goals are worthy. Too often, I see people sabotage their training because their goals “aren’t really important.” This line of thinking is usually just a defense mechanism—a bargaining tool. Don’t let your doubts and fears fool you into selling yourself short. You and your goals are important. Period.
During training, you will be faced with many tough choices. You may be tempted to bargain with yourself about which sacrifices need (or don’t need) to be made in order to reach your goal. Olympic marathoner Deena Kastor, when asked about making sacrifices while training for the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, explained that “sacrifice” is not the right way to explain the choices we have to make. We simply live the lifestyle we must in order to reach our goals. Going to bed early, eating healthy, or missing out on a late night party are just pieces of the training puzzle. The steps we take to remain healthy, recovered, rested, and energized shouldn’t be thought of as sacrifices. They should be seen as enthusiastic devotion and prime opportunities to be that much closer to our goals.
There are always setbacks during training, but take them in stride. View them as opportunities to build strength and generate momentum. Adversity is opportunity. Hardships serve to build our character and make us stronger, more focused individuals. Injuries, illness, soreness, and fatigue are not roadblocks that stop us from achieving our goals. They are simply the mountains we must climb to reach our finish lines.
It is our choice whether we want to live lives of mediocrity or of excellence. Through proper planning, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution, we will be able to do much more than we ever thought possible.
By designing and following an intelligent plan, you can achieve the aspirations you held when you first signed up for your race. It just takes a little grit and gumption to choose excellence.
Good Luck and Happy Racing!
Tim Cary is FLEET FEET's Assistant Training Manager, coach of the FLEET FEET-sponsored Runnababez Elite team, and manager of the FLEET FEET Racing Team. Over his 20 years of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors. Click here to receive Tim's weekly article via email.