Frerichs at the USATF Outdoor Championships
In the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, Courtney Frerichs won the silver medal in the women’s steeplechase. She beat the world record holder and reigning Olympic champion as well as several other runners with PRs faster than hers. In reading about this race on flotrack, two things jumped out to me. The first was a process goal and the second about running by feel.
Frerichs is coached by Jerry Schumacher of the Bowerman Track Club. Before the race he told her to just go with Emma Coburn, the American record holder and Olympic bronze medalist, from the gun. This was a process goal. Jerry didn’t know what Coburn was going to run. He did know that with Coburn’s fitness and experience in big events, she would most likely race very well. He was right. By staying with Coburn from the gun Frerichs was able to maintain good enough position throughout the race to give herself a shot at a medal.
The second thing was about running by feel. Further down in the article it mentions the speed work that Frerichs had been doing. It says that she used to look at her watch every 100 meters during workouts. This is the antithesis of running by feel. By looking at your watch you are breaking rhythm and slowing down as your focus shifts from running to interpreting the numbers on your watch. You get inside your own head, inserting doubt that you can run that fast or being upset with yourself for running that slow. This is a mental mistake many runners make without even knowing it. Apparently her coaches got her to run more by” instinct” rather than being a slave to the numbers on the watch.
Through having a process goal Frerichs put herself in a position to medal. Running by feel gave her a better sense of what she was capable of and most likely boosted her confidence. As a result she was able to crush her PR by 16 seconds and take home a silver medal at the world championships.
Process goals and running by feel are two things that can help you race better as a runner.
Enjoy the Run.