As the fastest man alive, I know a thing or two about pushing past your limits. And while sprinting is first and foremost a physical contest, it’s that mental edge that makes the difference between a competitor and a champion. So, believe me when I say that no matter how long you’ve been sprinting professionally, it just never hurts to hear someone tell you to book it.
I turned professional in 2004, and in the decade-plus since, I’ve had countless ups and downs out there on the track. But even on my worst days, hearing my teammates, a family member, or even just a spectator yell “Book it!” never fails to put the wind at my back and a spring in my stride. Maybe it’s the sense of support, the knowledge that someone’s out there rooting for me, or maybe it’s the extra focus it gives me on booking it, but either way, it always revs my engine.
Other sprinters may feel differently, but though hearing “Hightail it,” “Get a move on,” “Get the lead out,” “Haul tuchus,” or just “Go faster” puts a little bit of pep in my step, at the end of the day, it’s really only being told to book it that consistently gets me going. Of course, I train like crazy to stay in peak condition, and I consider my victories my own, but a good “Book it” from the stands now and then certainly helps me maintain my edge over the competition.
When I ran my world-famous 9.58-second 100-meter in Berlin, I’ll never forget hearing my coach call out “Book it, Usain!” in the final stretch…
Sometimes I’ll even say it to myself, if I really need that little lift, but I’m sparing about it. In sprinting, every breath counts.
When I’m on the blocks, I’m focused on nothing but that starting gun, but as soon as we’re out of the gate, I’m taking it all in: the roar of the crowd, the glare of the lights, the pounding of feet behind me, and especially anyone out there telling me to book it. Even long after I’ve retired—and no, I won’t comment here on whether I’m planning to hang up my shoes after this summer’s Olympics—that’s what I’ll always remember. When I ran my world-famous 9.58-second 100-meter in Berlin, I’ll never forget hearing my coach call out “Book it, Usain!” in the final stretch, loud and clear, and finding in myself a reservoir of strength I never knew I had. For me, that’s what running’s all about.
So, if one of these days you find yourself at one of my races, or see me on a training jog as I lope down Jamaica’s winding roads, why not give a shout? I may not turn my head, but rest assured, I can pick out someone yelling “Book it” a country mile off. You’ll make my day, and maybe even help me shave a millisecond or two off my time. As a sprinter, all I can do is keep striving, but it sure helps to know that I don’t have to do it alone.