When kids compete in their first running race, every parent gives their children advice. One nugget that is inevitably handed out is “Don’t look behind you—just keep running.” It is with good reason that this advice is often given.
The key in a running event, and indeed in life, is to focus on your finish line. Focus on what you want to achieve. Concentrate on achieving your goals. You can only do this if you look ahead and run your own race.
You want every child to achieve a personal best. I have seen almost comical events when a child has looked over his left shoulder to see where the competition is, only to be passed on his right side, and then look back toward the front with a huge shock when someone is suddenly in front of him.
At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Niksa Roki of Croatia swam in heat one of four heats in the men’s 400-metre individual medley. Heat one had qualifying times that just snuck under the required Olympic qualifying times, so heat one had no international superstars swimming in the event.
When Roki swam across the finish line, he turned to see the scoreboard and punched the air harder than any gold medallist I have seen. Why? His time was 4.22.44—this was 10.70 seconds slower than the eighth qualifier into the final and 18.60 seconds slower than the time Michael Phelps recorded to win the event. He didn’t have TV crews rushing to interview him while he jumped out of the pool. Hardly a reason for celebration, you would think.
He punched the air with great delight because he had swum a personal best time by 2.84 seconds. His time to qualify for the Croatia Olympic team was 4.25.28, and he had bettered that significantly. That is what you can achieve by focusing on your goals and not looking behind you at what your competitors are doing. Focus on your finish line.
You can’t control what anyone else does. Don’t focus on the weaknesses of others. Instead, just focus on your own strengths.