Jack of All Trades, Master of None. As I age into midlife crisis territory I have begun a self discovery journey again, to pull out bits and pieces of knowledge that I can use to teach my athletes lessons on both the sport, but also life. The opening sentence I’m seeing has been a recurring theme in my life, from playing multiple sports in High School, to entering a job in the military that does everything, to now having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge on any and every topic. Luckily, in realizing and reflecting on this, it led me to a lesson taught to me by a cross country high school coach. During one practice, I can distinctly remember him telling us “The last 400M of a race are where Champions are decided.”
The last 400m of a race can be the most mentally and physically grueling portion of a race. You’ve just run 4600m and are now looking to empty out whatever your body has left to either get your best time for the day or, possibly, to beat a competitor you are chasing down. One of the reasons this is so challenging is because…you don’t have to. With your heart pounding, your legs aching, and your brain urging you just to slow down and take a break, you have to consciously tell that voice to “Shut Up! We are going faster.” This is why champions are made on the last 400M of a race, not because they are physiologically different from the rest of the field, but because when things become the hardest they can make the decision, in the heat of the moment, to give something every last ounce of their being.
We can dive a little bit deeper into why champions are made in the last stretch of a race from a lesson learned while in the military. During a tracking course our instructor told us that humans will almost always take the path of least resistance when traversing land. Why? Because humans are “creatures of comfort.” Taking this knowledge we can apply it to being comfortable in the last section of a race, you can gain a competitive advantage by not being comfortable in that moment and stepping out of your comfort zone. You will gain a champion's advantage by deciding to take the hard road and push yourself beyond what your body currently thinks it’s capable of.
We can apply this to everything in life, not just racing though. If we look at every obstacle we face as the last 400m of a race and develop the mindset of “This is where champions are made,” those obstacles become surmountable. We may no longer play the victim, and look to persevere through challenging times whether it be in business, relationships, sport, and life circumstances; We must continually look to develop a champion's mindset. Embrace things that are difficult and don’t shy away from them.
Sometimes you may fall short of your goal or lose out to a competitor but it is the mindset of embracing the challenge of defeating your mind and taking yourself to limits higher than you thought you were capable of going, this is what makes a champion. More often than not, if you have cultivated this mindset, you will win out. Even if and when you do fall short, this is just another obstacle for you to embrace, and another opportunity for you to develop a champion mindset. Continually look to step out of your comfort zone and fight against the things your mind is telling you. Ultimately you know what the correct action or thing to do is, but it is up to you to execute. That starts with making the decision to finish.