The gun goes off, then nothing, no cheering, no other runners. Just me and just the finish line. Oh, by the way, there are also mark and set commands before the starting gun. As a track runner I am in a constant state of nothing and everything. This is a feeling only a true runner can understand. I am aware that this is a scottsman fallacy, but really it is just the runners who push themselves so hard they feel nothing or rather everything.
Let me explain. As a sprinter, there is no greater thrill than stepping up to the line. Why? Well a sprint insinuates that it is a short dash, and there is no room for doubt, second guessing, or really even thought. When I start a race, like say the one hundred, I feel everything almost in slow motion. My muscles are bunching then exploding me forward as fast as they can muster. I can feel every pin in my shoes grip into the track then released again when I finish the stride. Yet, I do not really feel anything. No pain, no soreness, nothing. This is probably due to me going tunnel vision.
My apparent lack of focus is very evident in the hurdles, my personal favorite race. If I second guess my self even for a split second, I will hit a hurdle and faceplant. My mind lets my muscles take over and let them do what I have trained them to do for so long. This is one of the reasons I love the race so much, but it is also the reason why I black out, or rather zone out, because in my mind there isn’t a field of black it is more of nothing. Eight steps, hurdle, three steps, hurdle, three steps, hurdle, three steps, hurdle, three steps, hurdle, five steps, lean. This entirely is my race, my body is so used to it that I can almost do it with my eyes closed. And no, I have never tried. Track is often times like this as your body can react faster than your mind. This is by no means a problem, especially as the body can break and the runner will feel less pain. I have dedicated almost three hours a day to track because my body needs to know what to do when my mind goes blank.
Any runner can zone like this and, in fact, many do. Even a beginner or even the slowest runners can do this because they are pushing their bodies to the limit and they will always feel nothing. The difference is that the fast runners often zone out before the race. Before they step into blocks, before they enter the bull pen. This is me. I loose track of time and people. All I know is where the finish line is and where I start. Why do you think the start is a gun? It is to break through the fog or lack thereof and send the runners into a blind drive to the finish line.
The point of all this is that the zone out is not just in track. How many times does a football QB throw a pass in practice before it is instinctual about distance and speed? How many times has a martial arts expert thrown a kick or a punch? The answer is so many that they just need the mental stimulus to do it. The same is for track.
Unfortunately, most see track as a sport that requires zero talent. This could not be further from the truth. Sure, we do not need to throw something or hit something. However, the skills we need are the same as most other sports, like running but our running is so much faster and so much more precise as we pull out every inch of every step we can. For this reason, track is a sport that all should appreciate even if they never perform in it. We may not be massive football players or tall basketball players, but every runner I have ever met has the determination to do what it takes to win, no matter what others say about them.