It was the first world record in track and field at the London Olympics. The time was 1:40.91. The event? The final of the men’s 800 meters. The performance surpassed a record that had stood since 1997. The man to do it? David Rudisha of Kenya.
All of the attention may have been on Usain Bolt in the 200 meters that day, but a few important points were lost in the mix. David Rudisha has been defeated just once in the past 46 races at this distance. He also has the three fastest 800 meter times of all time, and six of the top 8.
So what made this performance so special? I would suggest that one quote sums it up quite nicely: “I was well-prepared and I had no doubt about winning”.
Rudisha provided us with a fine case study in sport psychology.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from David Rudisha’s 800 meter world record at the Olympics.
Rudisha entered the event knowing that he was well-prepared:
“I knew I was in 1:40 shape, I knew it was just a matter of time to do it”.
He had the mental focus required to put him in a place where he could – rather, would – win.
“I had no doubt about winning”
Perhaps even better was that he defied the traditional logic of running a tactical race.
As mentioned by NBC commentator Craig Masback, the leader at 200 meters has only won the Olympic 800 meters once. He suggested that this 800 meter final would be a tactical race. What that means anymore is to go out at a pedestrian pace, thereby leaving a lot of slower runners in the mix, and then watch the faster runners get out-kicked by someone who doesn’t have the same overall fitness level as they do.
Rudisha went out and ran his race, based on the fitness he knew he had. He jumped off the front of the field and never looked back.
23.30 seconds at 200 meters
49.28 seconds at 400m (25.98 seconds for the second 200 meters)
1:14.30 for 600 meters (25.02 seconds for the third 200 meters)
1:40.91 for 800 meters (26.61 seconds for the fourth 200 meters)
Instead of getting caught in someone else’s race, he ran his own.
There was a lot of value and meaning in Rudisha’s Olympic performance. Sure, it was a world record time. But it wasn’t about having the greatest training facility or a huge budget sports science program behind him. Rudisha ran his race, with strength, with grace under pressure, and a strong belief in himself. It was just shy of 101 seconds, but it exemplified some simple life lessons that we can use in our own lives:
Believe in yourself – and run your own race, regardless of conventional wisdom. There is no better time than the present. Do it now.
Photo credits: Gribiche