When the lecture today turned to sports psychology, I could not help but think back to probably the most memorable race of my high school track career. I was a sophomore at the time, and the anchor of the distance medley relay (DMR) team. The race involves 4 people, each running a different race. The first leg is a 1200M race, the second a 400M, then an 800M, and then my race, the 1600M. I had only ran the 1600 twice before, and the last time I had run it my time had been 5:41. Being the anchor of the whole thing, our team had already worked hard to establish our position in the race. To my dismay, by the time I was given the baton to run, we had a huge lead, and I was running completely by myself. I started off the race fast, wanting to keep distance between me and the girl behind me. But, soon enough, people were shouting “She’s coming for you!” “Look out!” I was confused, because I thought I had been running a pretty fast race, but I kicked it into high gear. The last 50 meters, this girl and I were full out sprinting, right next to each other. I did not know who had won at the end of the race, but I was completely confused. I felt I had run one of the fastest races of my life, but how could I have?? She had caught up to me!
Turns out, the girl did pass me in the end. Our team was awarded second place. My coach came up to me, and I was already spouting apologies. But, she embraced me in a hug. My coach, not wanting to freak me out, had withheld from me that this girl I was racing against was probably the best miler in New Jersey. I had run a 5:07, a whopping 34 second difference from the last time I had run the race.
That day, my parents had come to see my race. Then, the doofuses, they left before the end, thinking I wouldn’t want to see them after such a horrible time. They, too, had been fooled by the crazy miler girl.
My coach would never let me forget that race. I seldom went faster than that time during the rest of my track career, most probably because the best miler in New Jersey was not chasing me down. For whatever reason, my mind was in such a state that it pushed my body even harder than I ever thought it could go. Just goes to show you how mental track (and other sports, too, I’m sure) really is.