Track and field star Morgan Mitchell gets real about struggle and reward
Morgan Mitchell is almost supernaturally fast—a vegan track and field phenom who’s run the 400m in a blistering 51.25 seconds. But the Australian’s fleet-footedness isn’t her only superpower. She just might be able to predict the future. On more than one occasion, the 24-year-old has scribbled down a lofty dream … and it’s come true. Did we mention she also worked like crazy to make it all happen?
Mitchell can trace everything back to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. “There was so much hype around sport at that time,” she recalls, though she was just five years old. “My mum honestly enrolled us in about eight different sports to keep us occupied and happy and to figure out what we loved most.”
At age six, Mitchell wrote in her schoolbook that she wanted to go to the Olympics, “which a lot of people found quite cute.” Ultimately, running stuck with the powerful sprinter, though she didn’t recognize it was her passion until 2012, after a nearly four-year break.
When Mitchell was 21 and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics were imminent, she promised her coach—and inked it in her training diary—that she would run the Olympic qualifier, remain undefeated during the Australian domestic season, and win nationals to secure her spot at Rio.
“I was so focused on getting it right, and I did! It was honestly the most incredible feeling—trusting your gut and having everything work out the way you wanted it to,” she says.
The adidas-sponsored star represented Australia in the 400m and women’s 4x400m relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics. And while she didn’t make it to the podium, she did learn lessons along the way that any athlete—and especially young ones—can apply to their training.
Having role models helped Mitchell get to the Olympics, though the lessons weren’t always fun.
“Once you start making senior teams, you take note of what the best athletes do and try to take it home with you. I now get more sleep, limit my partying, and always put training first,” she says. “It sucks at times, and you miss out on a lot of things, but it’s all worth it in the long run. And I catch up on all the fun during off-season.”
Now she’s the one role modeling, and she’s learned to embrace that too.
“Having people look up to you is really humbling,” she says. “I always thought it was strange, but the older I got, I realized any kind of support is good for the soul. And if I can make people happy and make myself happy along the way, then great!”
“I have had races where I freak out and my mind is running at a million miles an hour, but [at] all my good races, when I am fit and ready, I feel at peace with myself and my mind,” says Mitchell of the benefits of preparation and mindfulness.
In the last couple of years, she’s embraced meditation to fall asleep and start the day. “Meditation keeps me on track,” she explains. She’s also got special breathing techniques that calm her down and draw out her best performance.
Visualization plays a significant role in Mitchell’s racing strategy. She’s recently been focused on mastering the 800m (“I can’t wait to see what I can do,” she says of the new event). “When you prepare mentally and see it in your head, you know what needs to be done to execute.”
Mitchell’s career track hasn’t been quite as smooth as the ones she flies over in stadiums. The years after Rio were difficult, mentally and physically. “I lost too much weight; I gained too much weight. I didn’t stretch enough. I committed to too many commercial events (to pay my bills),” says Mitchell of some roadblocks. “I felt all this pressure to be someone I wasn’t.” In late 2017, she almost threw in the towel for good.
Gallons of tears later, counseling turned it around, helping the sprinter discover what makes her truly happy. Mitchell reclaimed her independence, realizing only she was qualified to make decisions about her life. The lifestyle of an athlete isn’t easy, she stresses, so it’s imperative you have fun. “Do it for yourself, not other people.”
Mitchell found inner peace and success when she learned to ignore the voices—including those of bullies online—and found the courage to do her own thing. “I understand that you can’t please everyone, and that it isn’t my fault,” she says.
The individuality of her sport also led Mitchell to learn early on that “you can’t win everything.” Of course, not meeting expectations “definitely kills you—it sucks.” Her advice? “Accept it and be gracious in defeat. Remind yourself it’s not the end of the world—there will be more races, games, and events to try to better yourself.” She gets over the disappointment of loss by working with her team to prepare for the next race.
“I have a journal where I write down what I’m grateful for as gentle reminders,” says Mitchell. It’s a practice she began after reading Miranda Kerr’s book Treasure Yourself. “It helped me realize I should enjoy this opportunity while I still have it.”
Most importantly, she adds, “Never let anything stop you. I was always reminded to ‘believe, believe, believe,’ and when it finally happened, I thanked my coach for drilling that into me.”
Mitchell’s plant-based diet is “flexible and relaxed.” She eats intuitively for optimal performance and recovery. Four meals a day plus raw fruit and veggie snacks and smoothies are standard. Her fave foods include vegan mac ’n’ cheese with pineapple—an odd combo she calls a “winner”— as well as vegan burritos, veggie dumplings, veggie fried rice, and banana bread smothered in PB&J. She also supplements with iron and vitamin B12.
And pre-competition? “I have a double-shot espresso, peanut butter and chocolate dates, hash browns, and rye bread with banana, peanut butter, berries, and maple syrup.”
Kathryn Romeyn is a Los Angeles- and Bali-based freelance travel and wellness writer whose curiosity about the world leads her on frequent beautiful adventures. Go along for the ride on Instagram.