Most runners run every day. A basketball player will shoot hoops for hours. A soccer player will kick the ball around before and after practice. Even that golfer in the house will go to the range and hit buckets and buckets of balls just to get the right swing for their next outing. Everyone has their own sport and once you get the "competitive" bug, you tend to put more hours into what you love to do. Not only is preparation important, loving what you do is just as important as well.
First, I believe that you have to "love" your sport. If you are participating in something because someone else has encouraged you, that can be a disaster all by itself. Now, if you are a natural runner or basketball player, it's OK to try the sport and see if you really like it or not but if your heart is in cycling or ping pong. . .take the path your heart desires. You will be more successful!
Second, decide on what type of athlete you want to be. I know, it's hard enough deciding on what type of person you want to be in this world but in sports you can really let everything just hang out! You can be this "wild/passionate" athlete or a "quiet/kick your -ss" type that comes out of no where and just eats up your competition. It's about being you and what comes naturally out of you to really make your sport more exciting! Deciding what type of athlete you want to be also gives you confidence when you perform and can help put you "into your zone".
Next, how do I get there? How do I become this amazing athlete? No matter if you do want to be an Olympian or just be able to walk a mile from your house, you have to train. Practice really does make perfect and let me explain to you why. When you focus on your speed, timing, a certain move or position it becomes second nature. Once you are in the heat of a competition, your body will automatically do what it needs to do to successfully get through the competition. It will bring the mind and body together in a way that everything becomes automatic and it will make you look like you were "made for the sport".
The last thing I want to talk about is "focus". I have a hard time with "focus"! When you have your eye on the prize, nothing else around should matter. You know exactly what you want, you know how to get there and you have prepared for it. I have seen this time and time again. I have experienced it. . .having focus. . .losing focus and what the heck do you do next.
Focus can be a tricky thing but if you PREP before a competition for not only GOOD results but for the alternative, you will be mentally ready for anything. Now remember, I am not telling you to focus on the negative. . .I want you to prepare for what could happen. Also, focus is about "YOU" and learning how to block everything else OUT, knowing what YOU. I don't care what plans everyone has for you but what so YOU want. It's pushing everyone else out and keep you IN. Being YOU is a beautiful thing!
As a runner (like many others) I know exactly what I need to run a comfortable race. Before a 1/2 marathon, marathon and even a 10K I have to "PREPARE" for what's ahead. It starts with my training, then what I need to wear to feel comfortable. Do I have all my little gadgets and stuff to complete a race (heart rate monitor, number, water, hat and shades, etc.)? There is a reason why there are so many vendors and retailers out there trying to get you to wear their gear and use their stuff. . .just like a car, everyone has their favorite model and they know what's going to help them succeed.