As a track athlete, I could say so many things about what this sport has done for me in my life. Of course, anyone who partakes can agree that it makes you physically and mentally stronger, and nothing really beats the adrenaline rush that comes with a great race. However valuable these things may be, the truest benefits of being a track athlete are the life lessons you learn along the way.
1. The hurdles look higher towards the end, but harder you try, the faster you’ll finish.
Whether it be the ones we face on the track or the ones that pop up in daily life, obstacles tend to seem increasingly insurmountable with each new one that we are forced to face. Keep your momentum—push, leap, sprint. There’s solid ground on the other side.
2. Your worst workout, much like your worst day, IS SURVIVABLE.
Your track record is 100 percent. (Pun intended. You have made it through even the most nauseating of workouts and most depressing of days. Maybe you puked, maybe you cried, but you are still here. You are resilient.
3. The responsibility is yours, the success is yours… (but so is the fault.)
A track has this awesome duality of being all about the team but also being all about the individual. Life isn’t a team sport, but being a part of a track team will teach you how to take control of your own actions and reactions in the real world. If you work for it, you’ll get it. If you don’t… you can only assume the outcome.
4. Mindset is the majority of your performance.
They say optimists live longer because thinking positively lowers your stress. I guarantee, whether it be just before the most important race of the season, or simply getting out of bed in the morning, a “Can Do” attitude can only help you. Don’t doubt yourself.
5. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
You can be the best—the smartest, the fastest, the most qualified—and if you do not put the work in, it will not matter. Every time, the person who busts their butt to get the job done will come out on top. Taking an effort is EVERYTHING.
6. You are capable of so much more than you think you are.
Don’t set limitations on yourself. Initially, of course, training is hard, life is hard. But your ability to adapt, change and grow far surpasses any difficulty you will encounter.
7. The reward is SO WORTH the pain it took to get there.
Think about it: your best, fastest race probably hurt like hell while it was happening. But afterward? The happiness is overwhelming enough to almost make you forget that you just wanted to chop your legs off five minutes ago. Life is kinda like this too. The hardest, most painful moments often bring you the most clarity and the most personal growth. Embrace the struggle.
8. Being a good teammate isn’t always about unconditional support.
Being a team player sometimes doesn’t mean supporting all decisions—good and bad—made by your teammates. Being a good friend is the same way. Don’t let those you care about be self-destructive. Speak up. They might not want to hear it, but they’ll thank you for it later.
9. Your coach is your most valuable resource.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Obviously, you won’t necessarily be turning to your track coach for every kind of life advice, but there’s your mentor, your boss – and chances are they’ve been through everything you have, plus some. What they have to say is invaluable.
10. Eyes on the prize. Dream big. Every cliché you can think of—it’s true.
Set big goals. You can and will surprise yourself with what you can achieve. Whether you want to cut two-and-a-half seconds off of your 400m dash time or you want to get into one of the most prestigious med schools in the country, the sky is the limit.