The power of self-belief
At Knowsley parkrun on Saturday morning, I said hello to a fellow runner who I had not seen for a while. Like me, he had been restricted to the injury bench and was just coming back to full training. I asked him how he was getting on and he replied that he was doing ok, was hard work but “you just have to keep the belief don’t you?”. This struck a chord with me, because I have often wondered what drives us to keep going when the odds are against us. Phil always says that running is 95% in the mind- you have to believe you can do it in the first place. And I think this can relate to many other areas of life- work/ personal achievements/ new ventures and targets. If you don’t believe in yourself, then how will others believe in you? We watched Katarina Johnson Thompson in the heptathlon high jump at the World Athletics and you could tell that something wasn’t right. Even before she started to take off, her face and body language gave away her lack of self-confidence. It was sad to see, so much talent waiting to be unleashed. Fast forward a week to the individual high jump event and she was like a different competitor! Strong, solid, focussed. Self belief!
As a coach I always hear “I’m not good enough or fast enough” and numerous other excuses and I hate seeing people put themselves down because of lack of self belief.
The Women’s Steeplechase was fascinating to watch from a coaching perspective. Here, Emma Cobourn and Courtney Frerichs (USA) were trying to keep up with the Kenyans and Olympic champion from Bahrain Ruth Jebet. No-one expected them to win- this was an event that the Africans had dominated for years. And then some bizarre things started to happen. Beatrice Chepkoech took a wrong turn and missed the water jump. Ruth Jebet, world record holder, got dropped on the last lap. The two American’s worked hard together, went either side of defending world champion Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi on the last water jump and simply took off in the final 100m. You could see there and then that the race was Emma’s and she remained so calm and focussed over the last barrier- it was almost serene. Seeing Emma race for the gold gave Courtney the belief that she could get silver. And both were justly rewarded. Watch the video online if you didn’t catch it live, its gripping viewing.
Perhaps the Kenyan’s expected to win it, perhaps too much confidence and self-belief can be a negative. But used in the right way, it can help you achieve things that you never thought possible. Emma and Courtney might not have gone into the race thinking they could win but they had the belief that they could do their best, they were equal to every competitor and when an opportunity arose, they took it.
Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn is a brilliant book that seeks to find the secret to Kenyan running success over the last 20 years. Amongst many things, Finn points out that simply being Kenyan, gives the runner self- belief because everyone around him/ her believes that because they are Kenyan, they will obviously win. And generally they do because that belief is so strong. So it’s almost a catch 22 situation. If you underestimate yourself to the extent to which your belief in someone else is greater than your own, then you have lost before you have even started. But Emma and Courtney believed they could.
“I cannot fail, if I have done my best.
But perhaps you have failed, if you did not try.”
So this Monday, give it a try