Sha'Carri Richardson, 23, became the fastest woman in the world on Aug. 21, 2023, when she ran 100 meters in 10.65 seconds.
To really appreciate that, visualize an NFL football field. Picture the 50-yard line way out in the middle of the field, and then beyond that, the 40, the 30, the 20, the 10, and finally, the goalpost on the other end.
Yep, that far. In less than 11 seconds.
I've been doing some semi-regular running lately and, feeling pretty proud of myself, had to calculate how fast I could do it.
The sad news is that I could run 100 meters in … one full minute. Sha'Carri could run that distance more than five times during my sprint. Speed it not my strong suit.
But it wasn't so much Sha'Carri's speed that impressed me, as how she was able to do it.
She was bound for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but was disqualified a month before after testing positive for marijuana. She was shattered, of course. But then she began working tirelessly over the next couple of years, in many contests, to come back.
Her mantra this season has been, “I'm not back, I'm better.” In May she explained that she had arrived at a new performance level by finding her peace, a mindset that had resulted in some of her fastest times: “These last three years, I've shown you what I can do. It just was me that was standing in my way. Now I'm with myself.”
“Now I'm with myself.” That concept just grabbed me. I think she's describing that amazing experience when your intellect, your emotions, and your physical body are all in the same place, in the same moment. You can actualize what firing on all cylinders means.
And you don't have to be a world-class athlete to do it. You just have to be committed to the task.
Just ask me, in my inglorious running glory:
• I do interval running: three minutes running, 30 seconds walking, repeat until done.
• And I go for at least 20 minutes, the point at which a flood of biochemicals called endocannabinoids (also known as the “runner's high”) kick in when we're moving at an easy-to-moderate pace.
Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal calls this a “persistence high” – a sort of psychological reward for simply staying the course.
I'm looking to get a gold medal in that. No matter the pace.
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