One Big Smile and a Breakthrough Race
Last week at the USATF Nationals, Haute Volée team member, Emily Oren, had a phenomenal race in the steeplechase finals. It was the kind of race that catches the eye of a serious track fan – Emily was poised, patient, intentional, and last but not least gritty with a mean kick. She moved with deliberation from the middle of the pack to ultimately a 5th place finish.
Emily recaps her performance, and the importance of simply putting herself in a position to compete with the best.
I have one mantra I tell myself before every single race I run - “I am fit, fast and STRONG.” Some days it is easier to tune out the negative self-talk by repeating that, but on the days I don’t believe it as much, the negative talk can creep in. After a bad race, all I have to do is look back at my mindset on the starting line and ask myself “did you believe it?” Most of the time if I ran poorly it was because I didn’t believe the positive voices in my head. I let myself be overcome with the fear of failure and the fear of the “what ifs.” Pushing that fear out of my mind has been something I have been working on since I started running.
In middle school I used to make my team flex their muscles, make mean faces and give a resounding “GRRR” on the starting line in an attempt to make us feel strong and confident. That habit has died (thankfully) but the idea has remained the same throughout the years – be strong and confident. It is certainly easier to have that mindset when you have been killing every workout, or are a top seed going into a race. But those times when the workouts haven’t been going my way, or I'm seeded mid to back of the pack, are the times when I need that mantra even more. During those times in particular, I like to focus on putting myself in the mix and just giving myself a chance. Since running post collegiately, my coach and I have been talking about that a lot. We discuss giving myself a shot during the race and having a little confidence. I have worked on that for the last two years and I think it was finally on full display at the USA meet in Des Moines this summer.
Before USA’s this year I was in a much better spot mentally than I ever had been at that level. Sure, I was a mixed bag of emotions before the prelim, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and that I could do it, but I also knew I had to believe it – and that can be hard. My coach told me to put myself in the mix, have confidence, and give it a shot. During the race I did just that, I put myself in the middle of the pack, stayed calm, and when the race started to move so did I. It was by far my best executed prelim (I mean it is only the second time I made finals, but it was leaps and bounds better than last year). Finals was another bear to tackle mentally. I was nervous to say the least. I knew I could place well, but at the same time I didn’t want to have unrealistic expectations. I once again repeated my mantra “fit, fast and strong” and talked with my coach about giving myself a shot. During the race, I tried not to pay attention to times but rather focus on competing. After bad hurdles or water pits I talked myself back up into the pack by just repeating “you can compete with these girls.” With two laps to go, I was up in 6th place and feeling awesome. At that point I knew it was going to be a good race and I wanted to make a run at 4th place. The last two laps I kept thinking “I am a woman on a mission,” I focused on Shalaya and started to move, not letting anything get in my way. Honestly the final at USA’s might be one of my best races mentally. I never let myself think anything negative. I always pushed those thoughts out with positive self-talk and just let myself run. Crossing the finish line with a smile is my favorite feeling in the world. I had the biggest grin on my face while crossing the line in Des Moines this year – that’s how you know it was a great race.