I just read Ryan Hall's final blog post about his record-setting debut marathon in London. Ryan ran 2:08:24, the fastest American debut ever, and the fastest marathon by an American-born runner ever. I highlighted his previous posts here.
The quote of the week comes from his post. He writes:
"It took me a little while to get used to running next to Tergat and Geb, but after a couple of miles, I stopped thinking of them the way I always had, as running gods, and started to think about how to take a swing at winning the race."
--Ryan Hall, on running with the lead pack in London
First, Ryan obviously had numerous goals for this race. One goal was to run a good debut marathon. Another goal was to win the race. He could have played it safe, ran very conservatively, and probably ended up running a 2:10-2:12. It would have been hailed a great debut, and he would have gained experience, and it would have been Good Enough.
But Ryan wanted more. As he says, he wanted to "take a swing at winning the race". This was an absolutely Risky way to race. He was in one of the best marathon fields ever and running in his debut marathon. And he understood something that many of us don't: this was a great opportunity to take a risk. He never got reckless, but he risked running a slower time at the end for the chance to win.
He was prepared, and everything he did was calculated. As a result, despite making a Risky move, he ended up holding on just fine, and probably performed even better than he would have had he run more conservatively.
Second, he handled running with Tergat and Geb VERY well. Consciously or not, we can allow our competition to dictate our own performance expectations, especially when they are more experienced and have better previous performances.
My guess is that Ryan's goals were so clearly laid out, and his benchmarks so thoroughly met, that any brief doubts he experienced were quickly answered by the confidence he gained in the months preparing for the race. This is what painstaking preparation will give you: the confidence to stick to your goals, even when your mind tries to give you an out.
As you read his blog, think about this: What would you have to do to be able to write the same type of post about your next race?