6 Lessons I Learned from Track & Field Trials

by | Jul 3, 2024 | Mindset

I was at Canadian Track & Field Trials in Montreal all last week doing coverage for Canadian Running and promoting my newest book, Micha Powell’s memoir, Sprinting Through Setbacks: An Olympian’s Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome. (We co-wrote it, and I’m so thrilled about it!)

While I was there, I noticed a few things that runners did that can apply to every type of racer:

Have pre-race rituals

On the start line, I saw so many random hand gestures. By in large, it was a ‘sign of the cross’ type thing, but there were other little ones I noticed, a quick tap on the chest, things like that. There were also certain jumps or bounces that runners did, a lot of the shot putters shouted something before setting up to throw… basically, most of the racers had some kind of little ritual.

Accept the weather

If pouring rain for a race that can make or break your Olympic aspirations doesn’t set them off, drizzles for your fun run or gravel race shouldn’t throw you for a loop or plunge you into despair.

Be prepared… but with as little stuff as possible

On the track, runners are allowed a bag with their warm up stuff so they can take it off at the line. I loved seeing how little they brought out to the track, but how prepared they were. I think it’s a testament to how pro someone is when they can have everything they possible need… but it’s a minimal amount of stuff that can fit in a small bag.

Race doesn’t go well? Be ready to turn it around.

There was one common thing I heard from several of the runners who didn’t have a great Semi-Final and went on to win, or who didn’t win one event but went on to win another. They did a refresh, reset, reframe—however they phrased it, the concept remained the same. They didn’t let one defeat turn into a bad Trials, they were able to shift back into eye-of-the-tiger mode and get back to work. This applies whether you’re racing the next day (i.e cyclocross season) or next week (MTB season). It also applies to how you interact with friends and family after the race, or how you show up at work the next day.

Top finishers tend to be the most upright at the finish

We’ve said this before, and I know it’s unavoidable in some situations, but it’s amazing how chill top finishers are when their race is over for the most part. Sure, there were some vomiting situations and a couple of obvious little injuries at Trials, but for the most part, runners did their thing and remained standing. They know just how hard to push — and they’re able to bounce back quickly. You may not be able to do this if you’re sprinting it out at the finish, but I think it’s worth remembering that the best of the best are often the most composed at the finish.

Remember that by tomorrow, no one remembers how you did

What was wild to me, after years of covering bike races where we’d try to talk to several riders in the top 10, or any notable finishers who didn’t do well, was that I was tasked with only talking to winners. Second place? Sorry, that’s great for you, but not relevant to most of the audience. It was a good reminder to me that even the best in the country, the best in the world, aren’t in the headlines for longer than a day due to one race. In a way, that’s a bummer (for them). But you can see it as a huge plus: No one really cares how your race goes. I remember two years ago, we stayed with friends after a 50-miler where I’d won but gotten a time penalty that relegated me to second (still pissed about it). I remember telling the friends that I’d done a 50-miler, and laughing at myself because they didn’t ask how it went or how I finished, they were shocked that I ran 50 miles in the first place. A lot of the time, we get so in our heads about how people will perceive us and our race time splits that we forget that really, no one is watching us that closely.


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