I was finishing up some paperwork and thinking about lunch about the time the elite women had a mile or two left in the Boston Marathon. Through the wonder of Internet streaming I had the race on in my home office. Good thing, too, as the women’s race again came down to a sprint, again decided by just a handful of seconds. Through a course of 26.2 miles, it was the final 600 meters which would decide the race.
Kenyan friends Sharon Cherop and Jemima Jelagat Sumgong pulled away from the small lead pack around Mile 23. They ran together until the final turn onto Boylston Street where Cherop accelerated. She put on another acceleration with 300 meters to go and won by two seconds.
I sat in my chair, shouting to no one, “Are you kidding me?” That was an emphatic final kick. Final two kicks really. She picked it up, hard, at at time most want to crawl across the finish line. It reminded me of the quote from Charles Shulz:
Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.
Seriously. This woman used some serious gears in that final 600 meters. In this morning’s story for The Boston Globe, Cherop described her success in terms of preparation. She ran Boston last year, was in the pack of the final three, but faded at the end to finish third overall. This year, she had knowledge of the course, of the race and of her competitors. She had a plan. She executed the plan. She won.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Simple, yes. Easy to pull off? No. Because often we let our minds get in the way. We start thinking too much. We become our own worst enemy. The radio show, This American Life had a fantastic episode on this phenomena of becoming our own worst enemy. The first piece was about Steve Blass — the All-Star pitcher who suddenly was unable to throw strikes. Of the many opportunities for reflection on life and success was this tidbit — athletes get into trouble when they start thinking too much, when they start dissecting their techniques instead of just going out and doing. Instead of being a pitcher, Steve Blass thought too much about how to be pitcher. And I can recall far too many times, in many areas of my life, where thinking is what ultimately causes my downfall.
Back to the Boston Marathon. Cherop had a plan. And sometime having a plan can take thinking out of the equation. Don’t think. Just do. Just be. Just be who you are. Be what you’ve practiced. Be who want to be. Cherop’s move looked gutsy to me as I watched on my laptop in the comfort of my home office. But sometimes gutsy is turning off your brain and going with what you feel. The majority of the time, that will leave you true to yourself. And whether you win the Boston Marathon or not, it’s a hallmark of success.