The Power of the Mind

“The possession of anything begins in the mind”


Perhaps no other athletic achievement in recent history has provided such a perfect example of the power of the mind to overcome perceived physical limits.   With the hashtag akin to a positive self-talk mantra of #NoHumanIsLimited, Eliud Kipchoge became the first human being to break the two-hour marathon.  The historical reference that Eliud made after achieving his goal by comparing himself to Roger Bannister who was the first athlete to break the 4 minute mile in 1954, is apt considering that Eliud followed many of the same strategies as Bannister by first using pacers, an optimized course and the latest technology to break the speed record unofficially before going after the official record.   By breaking the 4-minute mile, Roger Bannister also established a new expectation of what was possible and other athletes soon followed up with their own sub-4-minute mile records.

So when Eliud achieved this extraordinary goal this is why he said:

“It has taken 65 years for a human being to make history in the sport after Roger Bannister made history in 1954. It took another 63 years, I tried and I did not get it. Now it is 65 years later, I have tried and I got it. I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours and I can tell people that no human is limited. I expect more people all over the world to run under two hours after today.”

Free for editorial use and archive. Eliud Kipchoge celebrates as he crosses finish line and makes history to become the first human being to run a marathon in under 2 hours. The INEOS 1:59 Challenge, Vienna, Austria. 12 October 2019. Photo: Thomas Lovelock for The INEOS 1:59 Challenge

The last line is telling and worth exploring as to why he would expect that suddenly people all over the world are now capable of running a marathon in under two hours.  Did his talent just spread wings and make hundreds of runners suddenly more physically capable of achieving the same goal? Of course not, what Eliud is saying is that these types of records are first achieved in the mind and then through the body and once the proof points are on the board others who are already physically capable begin to believe that they can do it as well.

“It’s not about the legs;

it’s about the heart and the mind.” 

Eliud Kipchoge
Free for editorial use and archive. Eliud Kipchoge celebrates with his pacemaking team, friends and supporters after crossing finish line to break the historic two hour barrier for a marathon. The INEOS 1:59 Challenge, Vienna, Austria. 12 October 2019. Photo: Thomas Lovelock for The INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Clearly, there is something at play that is far more powerful than physical training alone. In a recent study researchers examined a variety of mental toughness factors found in high performing endurance athletes (primarily triathletes and runners). The top 3 ranked factors contributing to mental toughness were:

  1. Self-Belief  
  2. Positive Cognition  
  3. Confidence 

So at the highest level what you believe about yourself and what you say to yourself matter most of all. 

Thank you Eliud, for showing us what can be done when the body and mind are aligned towards a single goal.   #NoHumanIsLimited

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