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  • About VJ
  • February 04, 2023 4 min read

    “You’ve Got This!”, “Let’s GOOO!”, “It’s All You!”, “You Can Do Hard Things!”

    -As yelled from the sidelines as I stumble by. In a race that has carried on to expose every hole in my fitness. All the components I could have trained for, but couldn’t fit in my busy life. And all the components I did train for that fell apart anyway. Why, for so many years, did these words just roll in and out of my ears, and leave me muttering, “whaaaat?”, disbelieving every word?  

    I can derail this train and talk about the early beginnings of my debilitating pessimism, but let’s just leave it at- it’s how I was raised. (Insert shrug emoji)

    Two famous quotes we got from my dad growing up:

    “You look good. You look tan.”

    Total guido. And probably why I like tanning so much. 🤦🏻‍♀️


    “Great expectations. Great disappointments.”

    I think my dad just wanted us to manage our expectations to curb disappointment- just in case we didn’t succeed after all the hard work we put in and preserve happiness in his kids who he loved, the best he could.

    Unfortunately that negativity stayed with me and became a full-time resident in my mindspace. Talking down on myself, expecting poor outcomes, and not believing in myself were all part of my normal routine.

    The realization that my mental shortcomings were sabotaging the physical peak I worked for came years after college, when my husband (VJ Athlete Mark Batres - a top elite OCR racer and All-American runner, whose mental prowess could rival the best in the world) began to coach me.

    Bless the heart of any man who takes on the challenge of coaching his wife!

    And Bless him for having the patience to work with me through transitioning out of the perpetual habit of self-bashing and into the habit of positivity. There was muchOCR Racer Natalie Miano running up hill in VJ Shoes Ultra 2 improvement, and in a couple years of training properly and working with him on my mindset, I found myself topping the podium race after race, and I even got a glimpse of success I would have only dreamed of before, when I made the podium in a highly competitive, National Series race.

    I thought I was a new woman…until…I got injured in 2020.

    I experienced a setback that took me out for a year, seemingly deleted fitness I accumulated over years, and left me apprehensive to land. And the setback revealed that the negativity that resided in my mindspace was merely on vacation, and that damn demon was back in town. In 2021 and 2022, I would get out there and race, but never with confidence. Never with faith. Lots of “low expectations”- you know, so I could just prevent the “great disappointment” altogether.  

    There’s nothing wrong with that.

    And I can back that up to say I run and race for WAY more than to get a podium or a certain place that would deem me “successful” in my efforts.

    Here’s the problem. Since I became eager to “prevent disappointment”, I stopped entering races. I stopped putting myself out there. I prevented myself from doing what I love.

    A second round of realization, more profound than the first, hit me when I watched my nine year old son wholeheartedly believe in himself, kick self-doubt in the teeth, and give 100% of himself in races. You see, prior to this breakthrough of his, after a tough 4th grade year and a teacher who left him feeling that he would never be good enough, he too got in the habit of talking down on himself. We identified and made every effort to squash that real quick. But it would ultimately come down to him really believing in himself.

    In June, 2022, at his Track Association Championships- a race he barely qualified for and went in ranked 11th- he looked at me as we were warming up outside the stadium and said, “mom, I know in my heart I have it in me. I can do it.”. There was no definition of what “it” was. I guess you could say qualifying for the next round, but we didn’t really push that as a goal. The goal was and is always, to give 100%, whatever that is.

    So I interpreted what he said as, “I know in my heart I can give 100%”.  He gave 100% that day. Ranked 11th, and against some of the fastest kids in the country, he executed the race strategy perfectly, with confidence and focus. I’ll never forget the joy I felt cheering him in, when he took the lead with 600 meters to go and kicked with everything he had, getting barely beat at the wire. The joy I felt in my heart had nothing to do with his placement. I was elated to see that he believed in himself and had FAITH in himself and that he could dig to the deepest parts of his soul to pour out every ounce of ability he had in him.

    And without knowing it at the time, that was the lesson I learned from my nine year old.

    Like I’ve told him many times, there is no benefit to talking down on yourself. There is no growth in negativity.  And there is no start line you don’t belong on.

    The special thing about this sport - the special thing about racing, is that you can truly give 100%- your very best.

    Success and winning are knowing you gave it your all.

    And if you believe in yourself, surround yourself with others who believe in you, and talk positively to yourself, you can truly be your best in every aspect of your life.

    - Natalie Miano @nataliemiano_ocr