Usain Bolt is the most influential sports person in the last twenty years, some would say forever. He has transcended a sport and produced times and performances many believed were not possible. He has been the main reason for a surge in participation in athletics clubs all over the world, inspiring the next future superstars.
No less impressive is Michael Johnson, the superstar of my childhood and teens. Here was a man whom rarely lost, set new records and inspired a generation to take up athletics. Sound familiar? Never as showy as Bolt but equally adept at blowing the competition away, there was always a cool focus and ruthlessness in carrying out his game plan. Over 400m and 200m you could see the other runners physically tighten as he appeared to float past them.
Check this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ikWBTi_wt8
In some of the close up shots you can see his unique ‘upright’ running style, how relaxed he was and how he appears to be out for a light jog!
Over the course of his career he won multiple gold medals at both the World Championships and the Olympics, the latter setting a new record of being the first person to win gold at both 200m and 400m.
In the 200m he set a new world record – 19.32 seconds.
Between 50m and 150m he ran the stretch in 8.76 seconds!
Watch how he is up on lane four within seconds of the start.
Going into the Olympics the pressure was building.
The tournament was being held in his home country and everyone with an opinion cited him as being the clear favourite for both events.
I always wondered how he managed to deal with the expectation, the belief that he just had to turn up – not just to the Olympics, but any race. How does someone prepare mentally for the opposition, the crowd expectation and the desire to want to win.
There is something that Michael Johnson said that always stuck with me, when talking about how he approached each competition.
‘I’m not racing the guy in front of me or next to me, I’m racing myself.’
Initially I did not understand what he meant. How can he not be racing the other people? They are there, in the field, running next to him ( or behind him in most cases), why is not trying to beat them?
After a while I realised what he was getting at.
If he was trying to beat everyone else he was likely to tighten up, become less natural and this would affect his running form.
Beating the opposition was not his primary goal.
He knew that if he trained well, followed the advice of his coach and executed the game plan he stood a much higher chance of winning. He was totally focused on what he was doing and what he needed to do; rather than worrying about his competitors. He was not racing the other runners in he field, he was racing himself and pushing himself to be better, each time.
I thought about the times I compare myself to the people next to me. The irritation I feel when envy starts to creep in and the frustration that I have not achieved everything I set out to achieve.
How many times do we look around the office and think ‘I should be doing their job.’ Or ‘Why are they getting more opportunity than me?’ Or ‘I wish I was as good, as them, at (insert quality).
How does this moment of envy help us?
All it will do is reinforce what we don’t have.
If we are constantly racing other people then we are likely to become disappointed. The focus becomes all about them and what they are doing and not your own personal destination. You will tighten up physically and mentally, leading to others overtaking you.
Think like Michael Johnson did. If you are going to race anybody then it has to be yourself. You have to work out how you can be the very best version of you in each occassion. If you set a goal and you have a high level of desire to achieve it, you will be rarely disappointed. In fact I would go as far as saying you will achieve it more times than you will not.
How will you move away from racing others?
What training/preparation do you need?
What is the game plan?
How do you know it is being executed in the way you want?
Who is coaching you and adjusting your performance?
What personal best’s/records are you going to set today?
Believe and take action.