Last weekend the SVSP crew traveled to New York City for the 110th running of the historic Millrose Games. The event was filled with another list of great American athletes, many coming off a successful Rio 2016.
The week had challenges waiting for us right away because of the weather. Ten inches of New York snow threw a wrench into our travel plans. After a few re-routed flights and a medical emergency at baggage claim prevented taxis from getting to the pick-up zone, I was finally able to catch a ride and head to the venue. Other athletes weren’t so lucky, like Brenda Martinez, who was scheduled to compete in the 800 but was forced to turn around on her flight to NY.
After all of that I was quite tired and it made me wonder how the athletes deal with these types of distractions. How do they focus? Most people that travel frequently deal with these things all the time. For athletes it is no different, and there are potential distractions everywhere. Late arrivals, fans seeking autographs, no space to warm up, or a forgotten item actually happen to world class athletes.
At this meet I had the opportunity to reconnect with Indiana’s own Waverly Neer, who has recently transitioned into a professional runner. This was special for me as I have cared for her since high school and followed her career through many steps. Having access to her I asked her a couple of questions about her transition into professional running and where she draws her motivation. I also asked her how she finds focus:
What motivates me? I’m motivated by a variety of things in this sport. While I’m no longer running to score points for a team or chasing championships, in a real sense, I still have teammates in my new training partners. I’m motivated by their strengths; which sometimes are my weaknesses. Seeing them excel in a certain workout or a race shows me that things I personally find difficult can be done, and done well. At the same time, I’m motivated to give my best effort during workouts for my teammates because I want to be a positive contributor. And on top of all of that, I’m motivated by other runners and the high level, exceptional performances that pop up throughout the season. Things recently that stick out to me are Abbey D’Agostino’s story over the Olympics, Evan Jager taking home the silver, and any time Ajee Wilson races. I’m inspired by the people who are moving the sport forward, because at the end of the day they are human beings that work hard to relentlessly pursue their dreams. For me that’s relatable, and entirely motivating.
How do I focus? I think this is an evolving process for the sheer fact that life circumstances are constantly changing. Whether it’s big (moving to a new location to train), or in comparison small (it’s windy or cold the day of a big workout), as athletes we constantly have to frame and reframe our mindset to meet the demands of a workout, a race, and even life. I find what works best for me is to focus on the things I can control, and that usually boils down to just my attitude and my effort. Rather than dwelling on the negative things that pop up, or the “distractions” around me, I try to channel my energy towards creating a positive mindset and putting forth my honest best effort that day. I’ve found when I do that I’m best able to zero in on the one thing I’m really seeking to accomplish, and that’s to be a happy, healthy, speedy runner.
Find your way to focus. You will certainly have something distract you. Find something that helps you forget the issue. This applies to race day of course but I believe it also applies to training. Training with something bothering you may be limiting you from tapping into your potential. Turn the distraction off, work on the training, not the problem.