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Beating the Odds

How Geoffrey Mutai won the Marathon

Geoffrey Mutai used more than his legs to smash the world marathon record yesterday in Boston.

He used his eyes. And his imagination.

Having never seen the course in person, Mutai employed a big-time mental technique to attack it. He scouted the route in a car upon his arrival nearly a week ago. Then he captured the 115th Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 2 seconds. It was the fastest marathon ever.

“The course was so nice, it reminded me of where I was training [in Kenya],’’ Mutai said, according to this Boston Globe article. “I’d been training on hills. I had it in my head that this course was so tough.’’

Mutai’s decision to preview the course was familiar if you’ve ever seen the movie “Hoosiers.” In it, the coach, played by Gene Hackman, takes his team to the gym the night before the game. He wants to familiarize the players with it. While there, he reminds the team that it’s like any other gym. Naturally, they go on to win the championship.

Mutai and Hackman knew what great performers know: the first time should never be the first time. Anything you can do to make things more familiar will help. Unfamiliarity adds to stress.

In Mutai’s case, seeing the course removed anxiety about how difficult the course was. He was able to relate it to past experience. It reminded him of home — what could make anyone feel more at ease?

This is one of the most important job interview tips. It can help you with test-taking. Before the interview or the test, see what you can do to make the situation more familiar. She what will remind you of home. You, like Geoffrey Mutai, may shock the world!

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” click here.


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