Darrell Barnes and I had the opportunity to travel again for USA Track and Field this weekend, attending the historic Payton Jordan Invitational hosted by Stanford University.Each year elite distance runners converge on Palo Alto to take advantage of near perfect running conditions. Many come here chasing the standard, trying to get an entry into that years qualifying or championship meets. This year’s event educated me in a unique way, and I continue to learn about the care elite athletes require in their pursuit of success.
Runners race for a variety of reasons, and the 2016 Payton Jordan Invitational found many runners racing in events that are not their specialty. Some were using it as a challenging workout while others were working on racing strategies.
Many athletes felt that they had not performed up to their expectations, however a common response was not that of disappointment or frustration, but of recognition that this is part of the process. This is not the goal, but one step of many toward the end result. Initially my response was one of disappointment for them. I am used to seeing these athletes, some of them the best in the world, win every event I witness. But talking to them after the event opened my eyes to the humility they possess, recognizing that this day is but one small part in the process. In the grand scheme they might not win every race, but they experienced something this weekend that will help them win THE race.
For young and developing athletes I feel this is a lesson to heed. There will be moments in training and competing that don’t feel like improvements. These moments are important, however. Each is part of the larger process, part of the completion of the larger goal. These moments can come in the form of injuries that require large amounts of time off, workouts that inflict pain, or races that fall short of the desired result.
This weekend we heard several explanations as to why performances on didn’t look good on paper, but the common theme was a humble respect for the process. Respect for the plan their coach has outlined. Respect for the steps it takes to be truly great at something. Respect for competitors; something we can all learn from.
The Olympic Games are less than 100 days away. Please support these athletes as they pursue glory and gold in 2016.
Kendra Chambers | Jesse Jorgensen