This is the story of Courtney Frerich, who announced one of the surprise performances of the Tokyo Olympics. But in reality it’s a story about mantras. Because who Frerich is, and what she managed to achieve this summer, is about the language she has been repeating for years.
We are not talking about mantras in the ancient sense, chants (“homs”) often associated with the practice of yoga and meditation in modern life.
We talk about words and phrases that 28-year-old Frerichs speaks quietly and loudly thousands of times. A word that gave her the confidence to win a silver medal in a race where even a running nerd has little chance of getting to the podium, running head-on in Tokyo’s 3,000-meter obstacle race.
“I love these words and phrases because they usually start with practice and conversation,” Frerich said of this week’s mantra, enjoying a break at his parents’ home in Missouri. “It’s very organic.”
Does the mantra really make you faster? No one can say that they will slow you down. Does anyone hate hearing the words of self-assurance in difficult moments? A 2015 study in the journal Brain and Behavior concluded that repeated mantra subjects showed reduced brain activity, increased concentration and relaxation, and properties that helped them when trying to run life races. rice field.
And if the runner believes something helps to make her stronger or faster, it may work very well.
Now, some important notes about Frerichs.
She grew up in southwestern Missouri and spent time in high school doing gymnastics and running. She attended the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Kansas City is rare in Oregon or Arkansas in terms of success. She spent her final year of qualification at the University of New Mexico, where she helped lead Lobos to the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
She won the silver medal at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in Steeplechase, but is the shadow of Emma Coburn, a fellow American who was the 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist and the 2017 World Champion in Steeplechase. Seems to always be present in.
Frerichs first touched the mantra at a university in New Mexico, and coach Joe Franklin always reminded athletes that their quest during the 2015 Championship season was about travel, not destination. Said that.
“That was really clear to us,” she said. “We liked it, but never thought about the people. We were always thinking about our steps.”
Franklin frequently quoted the team four words: “”Don’t expect anything. Achieve everything. “
These words were in Frerich’s head for the first few minutes of the national championship race, where the team started slowly but cooperated to win.
She also had it in her head when she embarked on her professional career in 2016, starting with a shot in the Rio Olympics qualifying. She formed a team, participated in the Olympic finals and finished in 11th place. It was a solid debut, especially for the 23-year-old, but he left with a persistent feeling that the race was too safe to play rather than run like the end of his life.
The following year, as she was preparing for the World Championship, a new quote caught her eye. “Don’t be afraid to pursue something that burns your soul.”
From that moment on, “fearless” was her mantra. She said it when she started her workouts, when she struggled with them, and when she fought through the race. She found a temporary tattoo of the word “fearless” in a market in Park City, Utah, and slammed it on her wrist.
By the day of the 2017 World Championship race in London, she had planned to run in a lead pack. She subsequently won a silver medal behind Coburn.
In 2018, her coach, Jerry Schumacher, continued to say, “Run for yourself.” To Frerichs, it sounded like both good advice and poetry. That became her next mantra.
The word was in her mind on the final lap of the stack race in Monaco in July of that year.
“The words allowed me to relax and perform the lap instead of forcing it to tighten everything,” Frerich said. She broke the American record and completed the signing event in 9 minutes 0.85 seconds.
Then something strange happened. Frerichs escaped from the strategy that started her career.
She fought the injury. She stopped meeting a sports psychologist who helped her believe in herself and became frustrated when her career did not progress in a linear continuum. In 2019 she didn’t have a mantra. She finished a disappointing sixth place in the world championships.
“I started to allow the anxiety of the pressure to do to push me on the path to perfection,” she said.
When the pandemic wiped out much of the 2020 season and was forced to re-schedule the Tokyo Olympics, Frerich began to doubt her position in the sport while fighting hamstring injuries.
She decided to go back to what was successful in the past. While she was working with a new therapist, the word “belong” came up in their conversation. It seemed to summarize Frerich’s life, her career, and what she most wanted to feel when she was racing. There was a mantra. And she found a temporary “belonging” tattoo. It fits snugly on her wrist and I could see the word whenever I needed it.
With each race, she started to be what she wanted to be, a runner who could get out in front of the lead pack and belong to it.
At this spring’s Portland Track Festival, Frerichs went a mile ahead and did much the same thing he did in Tokyo two months later. She was practicing to put herself forward and control the race.
“We need to be able to do what we need for a successful race,” she said.
Sounds like making another mantra. Then run it.