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Anything can happen. No matter how physically and mentally prepared you are, you can totally lose everything in the last five minutes. If you are distracted, you have to be able to pull yourself back on track mentally and refocus and concentrate.
Even being strong-minded, you have to be able to turn negative situations into positives. The mental games runners play are amazing.
For instance, when I started racing, one runner whose times were slightly better than mine came over before a race and sat directly in front of me so I could see her. Her game was to get me to focus on her instead of preparing myself for the race.
It takes a strong mind to shut out a predicament such as that and still be successful. As I mentioned before, in the last five minutes before the race, I prepare myself. When the official says, Runners, take your mark, I think about driving out of the blocks, getting out well, because if I have an excellent first hurdle, Im going to have an excellent race. If I have just a good start, Ill have a good race.
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Likewise if I have a bad start, Ill have a race of adjustments. The main thing I think about is, Get out.
Then when the starter says, Set, I just think about the gun and wait for the sound to react to. Even my negative experiences have become positive in the long run. Im basically a positive-thinking person. In the difficult parts of my race, I [mentally] turn the pain threshold off. I concentrate on the mechanics of movement. Im thinking about snapping the lead leg down instead of thinking, Im tired, or possibly, Im behind.
I concentrate on staying relaxed by saying, Stay relaxed. If I hit a hurdle, I say, Its okay. I tell myself, Okay, youre still in good shape, up with the top three runners, lets try to get up in second or first so there are no more mishaps. Things like that. I give myself continuous pep talks. One of Judis most telling statements is, [The] five minutes before a race is a runners nightmare.
And indeed, it can be for the athlete whose emotions are out of control and whose self-talk is negative. For an athlete who has practiced mental control, the final minutes before a race can be a time of solidity, mental toughness, and centeredness. The daily practice of mental training techniques can turn those five minutes into a pleasant interlude, a precursor to fulfilling a lifetime dream and goal.
The last or meters of a race again calls for mental tenacity. Judy described what she was thinking during the last meters of the Olympic finals:. I was telling myself, Ive worked hard for this. Listen, Ive given up too much to give up here! At least try for a medal!
I was running for my sacrifices. I began catching people. The gold medalist was too far ahead to catch.
I ran negative splits [running the second half of the race faster than the first]. All in all, I was satisfied. If I get down, distracted, or whatever, I make a decision to just turn it off. I dont let myself dwell on a situation or let it get to me. I didnt enjoy the Olympics too much. I had bad starts; I got lane eight when I should have had lane six, but somehow it wasnt given to me.