Elite or not? What separates us?

Apart from the obvious … a “fucking huge VO2-max” as some would say there’s quite a bit. There are many things but one has to be the mental toughness that comes from a type of pressure us mortals can’t experience. Before everybody get’s up in arms saying “he doesn’t respect age groups”, “he think I don’t put in the time” … hold your horses. I have tremendous appreciation and respect for the commitment and effort people put into training while keeping their home and work commitments at play.

That said there’s one mental aspect that clearly separates Elite’s from Mortals … yes that’s my term for the rest of us 🙂 I hadn’t ever quite felt that difference until I read this recent article in runners world. As the article described the mental state and focus of runners like Dathan Ritzenhein I couldn’t help but think about how different the mental state of elite and competitive runners is. What’s it like to feel like everything is on the line based on how you’re going to do that day? It was the same feeling reading Meb’s book (Run to Overcome), what is the effect of knowing if you perform on the day there’s 50k on the line for example? No matter what I do there is no way I’ll have that mental pressure or drive … no way. That isn’t to say a race isn’t a big deal or a time goal isn’t something I really want but it’s just not the same. So what if I don’t meet my goal this race? I can run another marathon in 6 months … yes you might say that’s the same for an Elite athlete but those performances are what keep their sponsors and there’s a shelf life to the running career. I never could understand why Asia for example when she was running at UT felt so much pressure, well she was on scholarship so she needs to deliver, just like I have to deliver at work and get stressed about being behind or doing a poor job.

Anyway, it was fun reading that article and Meb’s book to get a glimpse of the goals and minds of Elite athletes. As for us Mortals there are things we do to try to keep the mental pressure on us. The first is training with a group. There’s nothing like your fellow “type A” runners to keep you driven and accountable. The second is publicly sharing your goals. Putting  a goal out there in public … well it’s out there and everybody knows it. If you deliver you deliver, if you don’t you don’t. It’s a good way to force yourself to not give up and give everything you’ve got. I’m sure there are other ways to do this too. I definitely need to work on it, I tend to mentally not really get into training or racing … time to focus on that mental aspect for me.

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One comment

  1. I guess it depends on what one considers “elite”?
    World class elites, I whole heartfedly agree.

    Then there’s national elite, which to me are like world class elite.
    But then there’s regional elite and local elite. Not too sure too many of those have a stronger mental ability than you or I. I just think they’re a tad more physically, but the separation is much closer than many people think. It’s just that many people, mortals as you call them, are “star struck” and automatically start assuming greatness when they hear the word elite. Heck, elite at the local and regional level is so relative, people think Panther getting second at thke new braunfels marathon makes him elite, or me running sub 3 in Boston, or you running circles around me in workouts, but in a larger net, we are amateurs.

    I think word class elites also eventually learn to not freak out in the midst of a large event as they get used to that level of racing.
    But yes, if you told me I need to win a race to win $50,000, I would probably lay an egg! But watch out on my second outing!

    Anyway, good post, made me think.

    (Let your wife know I took down #95 at alamdrafthouse on Friday night.). ; )

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