I received an email today asking why were being negative towards Chris with the comment on the homepage: "It's your fantasy" about him wanting to go undefeated in 2011.
I wrote the guy back a long email and figured it was good to post on the site because I think it's informative on the mental side of running and goal setting and it explains what I was trying to get across:
Here is my email:
"I probably should write an article explaining the comment. It's not meant to be negative.
However, I must admit when Chris said one of his goals was to go undefeated I couldn't believe it. I thought it was totally crazy.
Then I was reminded when I used to tell my coach John Kellogg all the crazy things I was going to accomplish in my running. He would just say, "It's your fantasy." I never was sure what he exactly meant by it. I think it was his way of saying "that isn't likely to happen" but acknowledging that athletes must have their own dreams and fantasies to be successful.
I never accomplished half of the fantasies I wanted to in my own running. But you know what, if 90% of them didn't come true that means 10% of them did. I accomplished a lot more than others and perhaps even myself thought possible. The motto of LetsRun.com is "Where Your Dreams Become Reality." for a reason.
So who am I to write "Chris is crazy" for thinking he could go undefeated in 2011? "It's his fantasy" I think is a perfect way of saying, "Athletes have to have their goals and some will be unreasonable."
I remember after winning the Marine Corps Marathon in 1998 in 2:25, the slowest winning time ever at the time, and being asked by the running journalists what was next and I said, "I'd like to try and make the Olympics" and some of them laughed. On the surface, a 2:25 guy making the Olympics is a crazy idea. But if the "fantasy" never entered my mind, I wouldn't have come as close as I did to making it.
I've said for a long time all top athletes are delusional on some level. To be successful you have to have total self-confidence in yourself. You have to believe you can be the best in the world, which only one person in a planet of billions can be. That is crazy on some level. Why do you think so many top athletes make comebacks, unretire, and keep competing way after outside observers see their skills are gone? Because these athletes had to have a total, delusional at times belief in themselves. Early on in their careers, they probably alone thought, "I'm going to be the best in the world" and then it became true.
One of the reasons I love Alan Webb as an athlete is because he is the one American born distance athlete who races like he can be the best in the world. He was not content to be the best American or to sneak into the medals. A lot of the other guys I think deep down don't believe they can be THE best in the world. And until you believe something it can't happen.
Last year after the season, Solinsky tweeted, "Now gotta rest up and refocus next year for 12:54.12, 7:29.00."
( http://beta.twitlonger.com/show/3d3d7h ) Those are the American records for 5k and 3k. I remember thinking "He'd better be thinking of running faster than that." Why not think of running under 12:50? Most Kenyan guys running 12:55 I'm sure "know" they can run under 12:50. Most Americans I bet have some doubt because they haven't seen someone like them do it.
I didn't know that Chris was thinking much, much higher and wanting to go undefeated in 2011. I applaud him for setting the bar high. "It's his fantasy."