I am not the first to experience heartbreak this Olympic year, and I’m sure to not be the last. Everyone’s journey is unique to them and the internal battles heal at different rates. I used to think that the only way to feel better was to be back out there racing again, but as I’ve discovered, for me, this is not the case. As much as I love to race, I have recently found new ways to heal.
My journey in track has come full circle. The home stretch of the 1500m is where my pro track career started, by winning the NCAA championship. It is also where it has ended, by suffering yet another severe injury.
For me, 2016 was a year of redemption, to put my injury ridden professional career in my shadow, reach my full potential and make the British Olympic Team.
Yet life is full of twists and turns, and in sport there are so many elements that deter your ‘shiny penny’.
On May 1st, I woke up for my 1500m season opener. Training was indicating some really promising things, I had touched on new areas of speed, endurance, strength, biomechanics and my body was holding up really well. Nine months of injury free training, with one minor blip indoors, gave me the most consistent block of quality work I’ve had in the last 6 years.
I couldn’t wait to get out there, fly around the track and earn accomplishments that I’ve been working relentlessly towards.
I spiked up and prepared for battle.
The race wound up and so did my calf tightness, 60m meters to the finish, I went to sprint and suffered a blow to the leg.
I felt a pop, kept moving forward and felt another, immediate weakness and pain took over. Within a split second I was down and out, pancaked in lane one, as my competitors ran around me.
If my coach, teammates and medical staff hadn’t ran over to peel me off the track, I would probably still be laying there right now. I knew my leg was really damaged from the pain, and later discovered I had suffered two torn muscles, narrowly missing a ruptured achilles. On crutches seven weeks before the Olympic trials, was not the terms I wanted my career to end on.
A week after the race
Messages from friends and family came trickling in to my inbox, as did my Olympic Trials invite. I felt pretty lost, for several weeks my internal battles were tough, I was confused, angry and felt like I had no control in my life. I kept questioning, how does following your passions lead you here? I went from daily focus with a specific end goal, to floating around in my own self destructing thoughts. I wasn’t kind to myself, even though I did everything I could to prepare for the 2016 season.
This injury just felt different to those of the past, I guess after so many ups and downs in the sport, you just known when you’ve reached your limit. Removing myself from my ‘big goal’ is the only way I have found release in recent weeks.
I have put an immense amount of pressure on myself over the years, winding my body and mind tighter and tighter every year to achieve this goal. Although my goals and determination haven’t changed through my injuries, what did change is the increase in anxiety developed by chasing perfection. The last five years, anxiety has snuck up on me and taken over, causing panic attacks, social anxiety and depression. Anxiety had settled into my life at an uncontrollable rate. It’s been hanging around so long it’s emerged itself into my daily life and for the most part, become the norm.
My track career injuries and anxiety have come hand in hand. Running success is something I cared so deeply about, that I’ve put it before myself, relationships and my happiness. It’s only now that I’m forced to detach from my ‘big goal’ that I almost instantly realized striving to be the best and chase perfection, took over my enjoyment of the sport, and at times, my life.
I do still want to challenge myself in my up coming running and career endeavors, but I’ve made big life changes to do that in a healthy way. I’ve started seeing a therapist, daily meditation, explored spiritual and mindful practices, taken a mental break from the racing environment and various other exercises that I will share with you in the coming weeks. My present chapter is inspiring and exciting and I am learning to approach my goals, and life in a much healthier and fluid way.
Passion, striving to be the best, determination, resilience and chasing perfection have made me. I’m grateful for these natural traits, but for me, my strong drive to be successful has to be managed.
Being kind to my mind and body, nurturing my family, friends and relationships is my number one priority, I no longer chose to put success over my wellbeing. Although this has been a very tough experience for me, having this realization has already improved my life.
From my experience, following your passions doesn’t always lead you to the pot of gold, and failing to reach my end goal is a battle I’m still coming to terms with. Yet, one thing I’ve discovered is that following your heart does lead you ‘somewhere’. Since the injury, I have been directed to some super, wonderful things that seem to be determining a bright and positive future for me.
Whatever your goals, be kind to yourselves in this sport. You know how hard you work and no one can take that away from you.
Be happy in life whether you run fast or not.
Find joy in aspects of track that aren’t just PR’s and wins.
Leave the sport better than you found it, by inspiring others.
Focus on the relationships and friendships and the memories, rather than just the medals.
There is so much more to life than just the success. Embrace the sport and your journey in all of it’s forms. When it’s all said and done, I promise you will want to look back on your years of hard work, whether you reached your end goal or not, and as a whole, be happy and joyful with your experience for reasons other than just the wins.
I am still figuring out what it means to have lost this magical goal I’ve been chasing for 16 years of my life. Is there a chance I may be happier… and healthier without it?
Until next time,