If …

Posted on May 19, 2012


I spent much of this afternoon on the horizontal as I devoured Chrissie Wellington’s book, A Life Without Limits. For anyone not familiar with the name, Chrissie is a four time World Ironman Champion and has a great story to tell from her years of suffering from an acute eating disorder to her travels and tails in international development to her completely accident prone character … her nickname ‘Muppet’ seems to be very apt indeed!

Chrissie is an all-round phenomenal athlete in every possible sense and when I finish the book, I shall post a review.  In the meantime, I loved today absorbing her words on the mental aspects of competition … needless to say and as per many a previous post, I’m an avid proponent of fine-tuning the mental chords and have found myself in many a race situation when my brain training has been far more utilised than my physical.

Chrissie loves the poem, If by Rudyard Kipling. Given to her by her first coach and now written on her water bottle in every race, she believes it gives her the confidence to compete … and to win.  Reading this caused me to revisit the words of the poem. It goes without saying, after all, that when we studied it at school I was probably far busier passing notes to boys … or passing notes to girls … about boys … on the subject of whatever we deemed life-enhancing aged 15.

Re-reading the poem has reminded of its wonderful words. They really do encapsulate everything you need to be a good athlete … in fact, everything you need to be a well-rounded individual full stop. Read them for yourself … then perhaps print a copy off and have to hand on the eve of your next race.  Nothing puts jitters to rest and nerves to bed like some positive self-talk and active visualisation. And if If manages to help you do this, then Kipling should have a place alongside all your kit.

IF … by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


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