The first round of the Olympic Trials 1500 is one week away. It’s hard to believe that the culmination of thousands of miles, hundreds of hours of cross-training, and countless rehab and strengthening exercises are all centered around a race just over 4 minutes long that comes once every 4 years. But that’s the reality of chasing an Olympic dream. We often fight in obscurity, balancing full-time training around real life, quietly dealing with setbacks and obstacles but reveling in every sign of progress. Society rarely fully understands the professional track and field world, but add the word Olympics, and suddenly it makes sense.
This year I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to chase my dream and see myself making physical strides towards reaching that dream. This was the first year I’ve voiced my goals out loud to more than just my family. I told my coach at the start of the year that I wanted to make the Olympic Team. At the time I had a PR of 4:08.08 and a 2015 season best of only 4:13 after some injury issues in 2014-2015. I thought that third 1500 spot would be wide open and that I wanted to be one of 5-6 women who could legitimately contend, and my coach agreed.
But even more than an outcome-based goal, I decided that I wanted to do everything physically and mentally possible to put myself in the best position to make the team when I step on that starting line. I wanted to be able to look back and know with 100% certainty that I did absolutely everything I could to prepare myself every single day. There’s nothing special about this goal; everyone chasing an Olympic dream has incredible drive and motivation, which is what makes the Olympic Trials so emotional. But for me, it has provided a sense of confidence to know there isn’t a single thing I could have done differently, and I can step to the line with a sense of peace.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing; hardly a week has gone by since December where I haven’t had to alter my running to cope with various ailments, and the past four months in particular I’ve dealt with a nagging ankle injury that forced me to take a couple steps back. But hindsight is always 20/20, and my limited running in March and April has now set me up to reach the Trials on an upward trend, feeling stronger and more fit every day.
I don’t feel much nervousness when I think about the trials. I feel confidence, a sense of peace and excitement, and I just feel ready. I’ve stepped to the line in my last several races very relaxed because I finally trust completely in my body and mind’s ability to lay it all out on the track. I’ve always been a confident runner, but I used to be wracked with nerves to the point where I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to quit the sport entirely every time I stepped to the line. Now I feel calm, fueled by the fact that time and time again this year I’ve asked my body to give more and I’ve always found it. All doubts and fears have left my mind when I race. I used to be terrified about the last 100 in a race, to the point that in high school I would try to win races in the first lap. Now the final 100 is my favorite part because it forces me to be completely vulnerable, and only then can I can see what I’m truly capable of. It’s about placing yourself in a position where you have no choice but to find an inner strength when you think you’ve used everything up. I feel the most free the last 100 of a race because at that point the only thought going through your mind is to give more, push harder. It’s those moments that define what you are made of as an athlete.
I know it’s going to take something special for me to finish top 3, but I truly and completely believe I can do it. I’m giving myself up completely to this goal and not looking back. Everyone comes to the Olympic Trials wearing their hearts on their sleeves and with their eyes full of dreams, and sometimes you have to be emotionally vulnerable and exposed despite the consequences. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have had so much fun this year training with this lofty goal in mind. I am literally living my dream each and every day right now, and making the Olympic Trials in itself is a cause for celebration.
So with the trials a week away, I can’t help but smile because I feel so ready. I don’t know if I’ll get knocked out of the first round or qualify for the Olympics, but I know I’ll be able to find the strength inside to run the best I absolutely can, and that’s all I can control. I’m coming to the starting line in the best physical shape of my life, having PR’d in every event I run (800, 1500, mile, 3k, 5k) this year, with 3 PRs in the last month. And I’ve reached a state of mental peace where I trust in my ability to give my all every time I step to the line and run to glorify God, and I’ll be able to walk away with no regrets. This next week I’ll keep dreaming, I’ll keep believing, and I’ll relish the chance to go for a dream that’s far bigger than me alone.