“Don’t defer to anybody.” That mantra turned out out to be the mental key for an athlete who came to running late but strong. Hat-tip to Kottke for posting this, and who is a must-follow (on twitter, too), and from whom — forgive me, Jason — I am lifting this whole:
Chrissie Wellington never really did sports growing up. Then, in her 20s, she started running and astonishingly soon after that, starting winning every Ironman triathlon she entered. Wellington’s body and mental focus turned out to be uniquely suited to endurance events.
Then at around 130km into the bike ride, with Sutton’s words “Don’t defer to anybody” ringing in her ears, she started moving up the pack. “I came up to the lead group of girls and instead of thinking: ‘These are the champions and the best in the world’, I just went straight past them.” Even so, Wellington never believed she would hold on. “Halfway through the marathon I still never thought I would win,” she says. “You know they are behind you and you never know what they are capable of. I was running scared the whole way, thinking: ‘They’ll catch me, they’ll catch me.’ But they just didn’t.”
This reminds me of an overperforming pair of rowers who figured heavily in David Halberstam’s splendid book The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal. These two raced together as a boat of two, and while I don’t remember the details from my reading several years back, I recall they were older than most rowers, came later to the sport than many, and had not raced together before. Amid those trying to make the team, they were the outsiders and long shots. But like Wellington they adopted a fierce, simple mantra: In their case, Nobody beats us.
Did it work? Read the book. You won’t be sorry. And go to Kottke and read some other of his great posts, so I’m feeding instead of stealing.