I tell people that their first Ironman should be their best one, because that (finishing) should be their only expectation. – Julie Moss
Hi, and welcome back to the star player academy show, episode 85.
This is Marilyn Wo, I help serious athletes like you get your mind back in the game.
For today’s featured class, we are going to feature hall of fame member Julie Moss who did not win first in a race, but ended up famous by inspiring everyone to do anything it takes to finish a race.
I’ve been ashamed of myself on not one occasion, but many many occasions in my life. I’m quite a good athlete I must say. When it comes to awards, I’ve been an overall athletics champion in my secondary school, and third runner up in badminton on the national level when I was in college, then when I was in the university, my canoe polo team won goal every other year until I graduated.
But as I’ve shared, awards didn’t help me. In fact it derailed me and prevented me to finish when I knew the gold medal chance was over. When what was meant fighting for has long been forgotten to become what I was meant to fight for. It’s really easy to forget what we athletes should be focussing on when we are so hard up on winning yet discount the fact about finishing.
Well, I want to win and I always will stand by going for the win, but before winning, we need to first start, then we need to finish. The mistakes I’ve made in the past wasn’t about winning, but it was the mindset of taking a short cut to winning.
The good thing about having won something before gives you that added confidence and belief that you can do it again. And the downside to that is it’s easier to give it up to prevent being seen as trying so hard yet losing at the end.
It’s a lot to do with mindset and perception. I’m not sure about you, but for me, I used to see winning as the only thing, because all the great sports people said so. People like Vince Lombardi, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan all do what they do because they want to win.
Well, they are not wrong, but because these people have already been there, it’s seldom they will talk about the experiences we need to learn before we get there. It’s only when we really ask them the questions closest to how we really are that we get the answers we need from them. It would be one of my greatest dreams to be able to have Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan as guests on the show. It’s only natural that the media will only show us the best or worst of them. They have to be good enough or bad enough to make news, isn’t that true?
It could be, but one lady made top news all over the world not by finishing first, but for not giving up and sticking till the end of an ironman race back in the year 1982.
This lady is Julie Moss.
She was 6 minutes ahead of the second place runner Kathleen McCartney when Julie could not carry herself any longer, collapsed when her legs had turned to jelly. But she did not stay on the floor for very long, she got up, collapsed and got up again and again. She was not done with the race, like any ordinary athlete, she wants to win, she had a comfortable lead, there was no way for her to stop at that time. So she tried to stay on her feet, moving inch by inch towards the finish line. Then with less than 10 yards to go, she collapsed again and this time, Kathleen McCartney managed to catch up to win the race.
But even with the winner, the story didn’t end there. Kathleen McCartney was a great athlete, but the race was still going on with Julie Moss dragging herself on the floor, in the process of trying to get up to finish the race. The point of the story isn’t about Julie embarrassing herself to reach the finish line. The point is that Julie was leading but knowing that she was taken over by Kathleen and unable to feel her legs as much, it is really understandable if she opted out at that moment to save herself not just from humiliation but also from injuring her legs further.
I guess from our point of view we aren’t able to feel the pain Julie was experiencing at that time. We would have believed that she would have made it past the finish line. But don’t forget that in a situation like these, tons of people were all eager to hold her up to finish the race with her. All she did was to shoo them away, not wanting to be disqualified for outside assistance. Seriously, she knew she did not come in first yet, she’d rather be second than to be disqualified.
If I were her, it would be all too easy to be disqualified, as based on my ego self, at least I have the excuse of being injured to not win, rather than to be in second place in the ironman ranking record book.
During that ordeal, Julie says, “My life was going to be different. I felt my life changing. I made a deal with myself. A deal was struck. And I don’t care if it hurts, I don’t care if it’s messy, I don’t care how it looks, but I would finish. I would finish.”
Julie managed to complete those gruelling last ten yards with a near win. As an athlete all we ever cared about is to win, be the one and only person at the top. Yes it feels ever so good. Kathleen McCartney was surprised that she won because she ran past Julie without realising she was sprawled flat on the floor. She was elated that she won. Who wouldn’t?
But from that moment on for Julie, although she still thinks about what it would have been like to win, she thanked her near win for changing her life.
Here’s what Julie said: “It was a pivotal moment in my life, that voice that I hadn’t ever called upon that just said, ‘Keep moving forward…”
You see it wasn’t glamorous and Julie never really considered herself as much of an athlete in the first place. You got to see the video and I’ve got you covered, so after this, hop over to the show notes at starplayeracademy.com/85 and watch the whole process of how Julie Moss finished her race from the time she felt her legs go jelly.
According to Julie, she really wasn’t ready for the pressure of leading the race. Here’s what she said about her own agenda for being at the race: “I had no idea what the sport was going to become. It was this strange event that happened once a year and was televised. I was loving being in Hawaii. I was just soaking it all up. The idea of having to do a race was not exactly an afterthought, but I wasn’t too worried about the race until the gun went off.”
Somehow it wasn’t something in her that made her want to finish the race, it was the race itself that moulded her attitude towards the race.
In the beginning, the only thing that mattered to her was to only finish the race, no matter how long she needed to take. Then as the race progressed, she grew to be determined to finish as fast as she possible could, doing her best to push her potential to the limit. Then all she wanted was to finish first. Somehow, her winning mindset just happened to evolve on that very day.
However, her body wasn’t able to hang on because in that day and age of the year 1982, there wasn’t such thing as the Power Gel or PowerBar. People in those days drank enough water and had enough bananas to power their way home. Same for Julie, she wouldn’t have expected her body to take that long distance. Her body just decided to quit on her at the wrong time, and Julie’s mind took over, to summon all that focus to sort of tell herself how to run, like a little child learning how to walk all over again.
Mentally, she blocked out everyone else out of her mind, the cheering crowd, the cameras, and totally focus on getting her body up from the ground so that she could make it to the finish line.
She also mentioned it wasn’t so much of the pain, it was more of her legs seemed disconnected from here that she was losing control over them the further she went.
Ultimately, her mind never lost sight of her goal, her mind remained laser focussed and crystal clear of the finishing line. She actually had a clear image of herself running across the finish line! Somehow she just couldn’t run anymore, and so whilst on the floor, she tried to crawl instead. No matter what she did, at that moment all that matters was for her to just legitimately cross the finish line.
Fast forward to the recent years, Moss found herself having a hard time dealing with other people’s expectations because of the fame she earned from that very first race in 1982.
Here’s what she said: What I struggled with, being seen as a professional athlete, was that it was about where you placed and how fast you went, and it took me out of that space that was original and personal to me.” She went on to say this: “I dropped out of Hawaii a couple of times because I couldn’t live up to the expectations of other people, and myself … I’d got sucked into it. That competitive nature is not natural for me.”
So StarPlayers, the only lesson I have for you today is this. If you want to win, it’s not only about how bad you want it, but it starts from little steps towards winning. You have obstacles to overcome, you also have yourself to overcome, then you need to finish the race, all that to be done even before winning. We all get crazy about our desires and dreams and sometimes expect to reach somewhere without knowing what it takes before arriving at our desired destination.
I hope that today’s featured class truly taught you a great lesson by such an extraordinary athlete and person, Julie Moss.
With that, we have come to the end of today’s episode.
Before you go, I have a quote for you by Julie Moss, she said, “I tell people that their first Ironman should be their best one, because that (finishing) should be their only expectation.”
Thank you all for joining me today. If you are wondering what you can do to be the best athlete you can ever be, go to starplayeracademy.com, I’ve prepared a cheat sheet that shows you 15 success traits of a serious athlete that you can follow in one glance. So head over to starplayeracademy.com right now, and till tomorrow.
I look forward to see you become a StarPlayer.
- Julie Moss’s Inspirational Near-Win in the 1982 Ironman
- Ironman Looks Back: Hall of Fame Member Julie Moss
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- The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis
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