Imagine Dragons, Cheeseburgers, Chicken Wings, Thunder and Lightning
My name is Chance Regina and I grew up running. Ran my first marathon in 6th grade, second marathon in 8th grade and even went on to run Division I cross-country and track at the University of Mississippi. I now coach a few runners, triathletes, and cyclists from time to time. However, my favorite athletes to coach are my kids. Two weeks ago, one such coaching moment arose and I’d like to share it with you.
My 6th grade daughter is in her second year of middle school cross-country. Last Saturday, as we drove to the meet I asked her “do you want to listen to some music to get pumped up for your race?” The reply from the backseat was, as typical, a noncommittal “I don’t care.” Being the wise guy that I am, I instantly put on some classical music. “How is this?” I asked. “Not very good,” she replied. I then flipped over to some violin music. “Is that better?” I asked. “Better, but still not good” was her reply.
By now, she knew I was giving her the business so I flipped over to a pop station and on came the recent hit Thunder from the popular band Imagine Dragons. As her head started to bob back and forth I asked her “what do you think the lighting stands for?” “Speed?” she replied. “Yep, and what about Thunder?” I asked. Here she was stymied a bit “I am not sure,” she said. “Thunder represents power and force. The two attributes complement each other.” The song continued for a moment before I turned it down.
“You have run this course before and there is a big hill on the backside that you have to run twice,” I reminded her. “Each time when you come to that hill I want you to hear this song in your head. Hear the beat and the words `the thunder…thunder…thunder…thunder…thun..thunder…thu-thu-thunder…thunder…feel the thunder…’ and when you are on the downhill or the flat sections I want you to think `lightning, then the thunder.’” I turned the radio back up and let her listen as the refrain rolled along. A minute later I turned it back down and said “sounds kind of stupid doesn’t it?” She laughed, “yes, it does seem kind of silly.”
In my coaching tone, I offered “well, it isn’t silly at all. It’s called a mantra. Athletes use them all the time. When the race gets to that hill and it is starting to get miserable, so bad your ears are tired and your hair hurts...your mind takes over with the mantra. You don’t think about the pain and the suffering. You think about `the thunder…thunder…thunder…thunder…thun..thunder…thu-thu-thunder…thunder…feel the thunder.’ Next thing you know, you will be flying up that hill passing people.”
As the race got underway, I ran across to the bottom of the hill and as she came by I chanted “the thunder…thunder…thunder…” and of course…she started to laugh. I just kept going with “the thunder…thunder…thunder…” and next thing I know, she is pumping her arms and passing 2, 3…7 girls by the top putting herself in the top 10 overall. Even better, she kept rolling over the hill…the lightning.
Along with a half a dozen other coaches, I flew around to the front of the course where it was flat. As she came by the mile mark I gave her the “lightning, then the thunder” over and over again. She kept moving with another runner who was going forward in the field. Having repositioned myself to the bottom of the hill for the second time up it, she knew what was coming and I could see her focusing. It was if I could hear her playing it over and over again in her own head, “the thunder… thunder… thunder.” She powered past three runners and moved into the top 5 over all. She didn’t stop there. Coming off the hill, she let her legs run like lighting and by the time they hit the 300m to go mark she was in a battle with 3rd and 4th place. I screamed over and over again “lightning, lightning, lightning” and she surged to the front of the little group. With 200m to go again I called “lightning, lightning, lightning” and she surged to separate from 4th and 5th place. As she staggered around trying to catch her breath, her 3rd place medal swung from her neck. She looked up at me… and through deep gasps for breath she said “the thunder…it works!”
She is right. Mantras do work. Maybe Imagine Dragons isn’t what will work for you, but know this, there is something which will work for you. It has been decades since my last bike race. However, an old teammate of mine will repeat to me when he sees me “chicken wings, chicken wings, chicken wings” or “bacon double cheeseburger, bacon double cheeseburger, bacon double cheeseburger” as I used to always say that to him when we were in the midst of a really hard section of a climb. It was our mantra. When the suffering was great and our bodies were so exhausted that our ears were tired and our hair hurt, it gave us the something to focus on -- the reward we gave ourselves at the end.
What is your mantra going to be?
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