IT’S LIKE A SPARK that ignites a fire. When the gun goes, the clock starts and the runners leap forward, eager to shave seconds off their personal bests. It begins and there is no turning back. As the athletes inch closer to the finish line, these are 4 things, in my view that goes through the mind of an athlete that affects his/her performance.
1. I will take on all of them!
Just like an epic scene out Troy or 300 where the protagonist, despite facing unfavourable circumstances, chooses to go into battle with sheer determination and a courageous heart. All runners know in their mind that the run ahead is going to be an uphill battle but still makes a conscious choice to take on the seemingly difficult task to get that coveted personal best or finisher medal. The training and dieting that the athlete has gone through in preparation for the race gives the athlete the assurance that the race will go well. “Nothing is gonna stop me now!” is what athletes tell themselves as they set their pace, regulate their breathing and hope for the best.
2. The inner demons
There comes a moment, when the body just feels like shutting down and the mind just tells you that there is no point carrying on. The test of mental toughness is when an athlete is able to silence the “demonic” voices in their head that gives them all kinds of excuses to stop them from completing the race and achieving their goal. Such examples include “I’m not fit enough” ,”Why continue? It’s not like there’s a million bucks to be won right?” ,”I’m still gonna be a fatty at the end of this run” and “There’s always another opportunity to get a personal best and/or bag a shiny new finisher medal. So why stress myself now?” This is where the runner reflects on why they began running in the first place and what were their motivations for embarking on this journey. For some, it could be to achieve better health or to loose weight. For others, it could be to build their confidence and self-esteem. Whatever the motivation is, a runner will have to wrestle with the “demons” and sort out the conflicts within themselves during the run. A great struggle but the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end is definitely worth it because you know that you have conquered your greatest enemy. That is, yourself!
3. What’s cooking?
Images of delicious food race through the mind of an athlete as he/she decides what to eat after the run. In a way, it might be the body’s way of diverting the mind away from the fatigue and muscle aches. It acts as a motivation for an athlete who has been craving for their favourite dish. Such thoughts re-assure the runner that there is a prize at the finish line and its not just a personal best or a finisher medal. The body pushes on as it knows that there is some sort of a “reward” at the end of the race.
4. The inevitable end
Amidst all the pain and fatigue, an athlete knows that the race must come to an end. Pain is temporary so there’s no point giving up or loosing hope when the end is just around the corner. As an athlete squeezes out every ounce of energy left in his/her body, an athlete visualises crossing the finish line and finishing the race from a point of strength. Visualisation is important as knowing that there is an inevitable end to the race not only motivates a runner but also encourages the athlete to pick up the pace in the last 1 or 2 kilometres of the run.
These are just 4 of the many things that go through the mind of a runner during a race. In my view, the mind has the most significant impact on an athletes performance. Training and dieting are also important but proper results and improvements in fitness, well-being and health can be only be achieved if a person has the right mentality and attitude towards achieving their goals and improving themselves as a person.