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U.S. Olympian Cory McGee On The Mindset Shift From Making U.S. Teams To Contending On The World Stage

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“I do enjoy watching other 1500m runners who have done other special things over the years and trying to learn from that – not necessarily copy it but learn to emulate the patience. That’s sometimes challenging. It’s a lot of instinct. I had race instinct before but I didn’t have fitness. How I raced at USAs is not that abnormal in how I went about the race but now I have the fitness to finish it.”

The guest for this episode is U.S. Olympian and New Balance 1500m specialist Cory McGee. She and I go way back to when I first started covering the sport and I’m stunned it’s taken me this long to get her on. I was with her when she made the U.S. team for the 2013 World Championships but needed to hit the qualifying time. I watched it happen in Europe that summer and it’s been so cool to see her not just stick with the sport through some rough patches but figure out how to break through and make teams again. She qualified for last year’s Tokyo Olympics and fulfilled a lifelong dream. This year, she backed it up by making the 1500m team for the World Championships. She’s got a personal best of 4:00 for the 1500 meters and 1:59 for 800 meters. You’ll hear how her mindset has changed to cement the fact that she belongs in the Team USA kit and is ready to contend against the world’s best. Plus, we also chat about this thought I’ve had after USAs on how Emma Coburn’s experience, mentorship and skill set helps the women around her on Team Boss.

You can now listen to our conversation on The CITIUS MAG Podcast. Catch the latest episode of the podcast on Apple Podcasts. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify.

cory mcgee 1500 meters


SHOW NOTES AND NOTABLE QUOTES

– “I do enjoy watching other 1500m runners who have done other special things over the years and trying to learn from that – not necessarily copy it but learn to emulate the patience. That’s sometimes challenging. It’s a lot of instinct. I had race instinct before but I didn’t have fitness. How I raced at USAs is not that abnormal in how I went about the race but now I have the fitness to finish it.”

– “Now when I talk to high school kids and there are questions about, ‘If you’re nervous on race day, what do you do?’ It’s always nice to have those conversations because I’m always learning through answering those questions. I’ve realized in the last few years that I’ve always loved to race but there were a few years where I was having to prepare myself mentally in a way that was almost lying to myself. I knew I wasn’t in super good shape and I would go into a race thinking, ‘You’re just going to have to gut it out.’ I would have these really intense conversations with myself and sometimes I’d even write it down…Of course, I still have that mindset knowing that a race is supposed to hurt and it’s going to be hard but there’s also a side where if you’ve ever spent any time with Joe Bosshard, he is not someone who is going to boost your ego or tell you something that isn’t true. He doesn’t sugarcoat things. That’s similar to the dynamic of how I was raised. It plays into a mentality that I’ve known as a kid. He’ll say, ‘You’ve done this workout. You can run for four minutes in the 1500m. Elle is going to go out fast. Go with her.’ That’s really as complicated as it was.

– “It’s a lot easier for me if your coach takes the pressure off of you by saying simply, ‘You are prepared for this’ or ‘You are not prepared for this.’ That for me means that all I have to do is my job. It takes away the emotion and overthinking. It’s the right match. That mentality works really well for me and it’s translated when I get to races that are high pressure.”

– “I realized that I used to always try to recreate a feeling that I had before good races. That was this strange thing where I wanted to feel how I felt on the days when I went well. I realized at some point within the last two years that there’s just a feeling that I need to get to. Sometimes it takes different approaches to get there. It depends on how I feel that day on which path I take to that pre-race-focused mindset. Instead of trying to be this obsessive, compulsive mode of ‘I have to recreate that exact situation.’ As runners, we do a lot of that. It’s not superstition. It’s habitual control stuff. Going into Pre this year, I realized I was trying to recreate how I felt at USAs because I thought ‘Same stadium…’ But no. Just chill out and feel that way. Stop trying to make it happen. If we’re talking about mindset, I try really hard not to force it these days, which I did for a long time.’”

– “There were some hard years for sure. There were some moments it wasn’t that I’m happy to be here but I was just hoping to make the U.S. final. I got to a point where I was so far from the goals I had for myself when I was in college. When you’re in it, it’s not as hard as you realize it is. Now when I look back, I did settle into just feeling like ‘Maybe this is what I have’ and ‘Maybe this is my best.’ That was very hard because coming off making a team in college, I did think that would happen again for me and then there was this stagnant period of time. I definitely had a little bit of a war within myself because deep down I believed I could run four minutes in the 1500m and I know I was willing to do the work to get there. Something was just not adding up. Something was missing in training. I wouldn’t say it was a mental block or a confidence thing or a willingness to work.

– “At Florida, I was definitely low mileage and not doing enough strength stuff. When I got to Boston, I really got thrown into a depth that I wasn’t ready for. I was training with girls who are much stronger than me. I was constantly getting the doors blown off me. I walked it in the week before USAs on a tempo run in like 2016. It was that all the time. Then I got here to Boulder and I’ve known Joe (Bosshard) since high school. I’ve known Joe and Emma for a long time. Joe is just super patient with me. He knew I was good at some of the speed stuff on the track. Then, I’d get into the weight room and work really hard. That’s where I feel like I shine. Then, we’d go to the track and fo like three-minute 800m. He was like, ‘OK. This is where we’re at.’ Meanwhile, the other girls would be doing 1Ks or 800m before sessions way faster. I couldn’t keep up with them for the first year and a half. We just took it all the way to the very beginning. It’s probably what people are doing as sophomores in college. It was necessary to build the foundation that was missing.”


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