Lessons from the Olympics: Running to Win

So, we went to the Olympics. The actual Olympics in London. And it was awesome. As awesome as you imagine it will be.

I have so many memories and stories and pictures that are whirling around in my brain, and I promise to share as many as I have time to share and you have patience to read. But as I've been thinking back over our trip, the themes that keep popping up are the things I learned from watching these athletes up close.

The first event we attended was an evening session of Athletics (track and field). We had really great seats, and it was inspiring to see the athletes competing in the various events and fascinating to be close enough that I could see the expressions on their faces through my camera.

We saw a lot of events that night. We cheered the wins. We groaned the losses. But my heart really broke when I took this picture.

This is Jason Richardson right after winning the silver medal in the 110m hurdles.

Why did it break my heart? Because I could tell he felt like he didn't do his best.

We were able to see the semi-final meets earlier in the night. Jason Richardson won his heat easily. His body language was relaxed and confident. He was running to win.

But the final was different.

It's so hard to describe, but I can best sum it up by saying this - He wasn't running to win. He was running not to lose.

It may not seem like much of a difference, but it's huge. You can see the athletes who are playing to win. They're relaxed. They're confident. They trust the training time they have put in and they let those training habits take over and carry them through the situation. Athletes that are playing not to lose are tense. They make silly mistakes. They choke in big situations because they let the enormity of the moment take over and they don't trust their training. And they don't do their best. And after all of that training, that is heartbreaking to watch.

But, there's opposition in all things right?

As heartbreaking as it was to watch Jason Richardson, it was a joy to watch Aries Merritt run the same race. He was calm and relaxed all night and just seemed really happy to be where he was.

And he won the 110m hurdles gold medal. With a personal best time. It was amazing to watch. Talk about visible joy on someone's face!

After the race, Merritt said this: "You just want to focus on executing your race to the best of your ability because you can only control what you do. You can't control what anyone else does."

And for me, that is when the sweetest successes always come - gold medal or not. By preparing the best you can and then when the time comes to prove yourself, you can face the day with confidence instead of fear. Because, as the scripture says, "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." And no matter the outcome, you'll know that you did your best.

In my mind, that is what running to win is all about - in life or in sports.