6th March 2015 – Nelson Mandela once said that “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I think that’s an important quote to remember as an athlete, as sometimes it takes time for goals to come to fruition. I often get emails on my webpage, asking how to get through a period of non-improvement when it seems as though it is impossible to reach one’s goals. As an example, I’d like to share this story with you.
When I 16 years old and a junior in high school, one of my main goals for the track season was to break 10 minutes in the 3200m.That year, I ran several races in the event (I’ve lost track now, but it was I believe 5 or 6 times!) each clocked around 10:01-10:04. Every time, I gave my best effort but soon began to become frustrated and think that it would simply never happen. I mean, 6 attempts, that’s a whole lot of times to come up just short! However, my coach at the time, Armando Siqueiros, a former runner himself, never doubted me. He told me that it would eventually come at a time when I least expected it, I just needed to be in the right race. Sure enough, at the CA state meet that year, I ended up running 9:52 largely in part due to the great race between myself and Laurynne Chetelat who also finished in 9:52 (I barely edged her at the line, watch finish of the race here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gevtem6lRrA ). That day, I learned an important lesson in track and field and one that I still strive to remember to this day …outcomes and times take care of themselves in the end as long as you focus on the process. In a truly competitive race, I was just focused on executing a smart race then when I crossed the line the clock happened to read well below 10 minutes and I had won my 3rd straight state title.
Flash forward to 2015, I’m now 7 years older, but not much has changed about this process. I try to focus on being a competitor and ultimately time goals and at where I place in races take care of themselves. Now, it’s funny to look back and think how much of a “barrier” that 10 min mark was. My PR for the 2 mile is now 9:36 which was run in 2014. In this past 2015 indoor season, the races I ran in were tactical, but I still smashed that barrier twice running 9:38 and 9:44 without even thinking about it. Of course it seems silly now as a professional athlete to say that breaking 10 min actually means something to me (the world record is 9 min and hopefully someday I’ll be trying to get close to that barrier!) but in a funny way it still does. When I see that clock with a sub-10 min time, I’m excited not by the time itself necessarily, but the reminder that if I continue to stick with something, an impossible goal really can eventually become an accomplished dream.
In sum, this indoor season demonstrated to me that sticking with it has led to some accomplished dreams. I still have yet to win a national title as a professional, finishing a close second this past weekend in the 2 miles at the USATF indoor nationals. However, along the way my season was highlighted by a win at the Armory invitational 2 miles, a 4th place in the Millrose mile and a 3rd place in Birmingham 3k with a new indoor PR of 8:50. The overall results of my racing this indoor season were much better than 2014, largely in part because I “stuck with it.” It has been a whole year of extremely hard work improving my training and biomechanics in order to keep chipping away at becoming a world class finisher. Much like in high school when each race I was so close to that 10 min barrier, I feel that each race this indoor season put me closer and closer to being a competitor on the world stage and sooner or later (likely when I least expect it) my national title will indeed come.
I hope that through this story you would all be inspired to know that whatever barriers you are facing can ultimately become a reality if you just keep chipping away. I truly believe that with passion and belief, incredible things can happen. Never stop dreaming, never stop believing! As I move on towards trying to make the world championship team this year and the Olympic team next year, you better believe I’ll be right there along with you.