The Olympic Games: lessons from the international stage
It’s been awhile since the Olympics. I wanted to share my experience earlier, but when I would try to write, I would be faced with a deep dissatisfaction and sadness. I didn’t want to share those feelings, but never being satisfied is a characteristic of every elite distance runner.
Leading into the Olympics, I was the fittest I had ever been and I believed (a very large) personal best was possible in the right situation. Making the Olympic final slowly became a real possibility in my mind. The build up to the Olympics was one of the most enjoyable training blocks I’ve ever had. I was running very strong workouts, I was excited and immune to the pressure that can surround such a huge event.
I wanted to put myself in a position throughout the race to make the final and if I blew up then so be it. I think I ran the way I needed to, but physically and emotionally I couldn’t relax throughout the race. Running at that high of a level with so much at stake is incredibly difficult and I don’t think any amount of mental or emotional preparation could have braced me for the way I would feel in that race.
I’m proud that I ran fearlessly and battled for a position in the final. I believe the thing that separated me from those that made the final is experience. This was my first international 5000m at this level and racing at an international games is completely different than running in North America in a perfectly paced race. I think I showed that I was a rookie on this stage.
After the race, I was admittedly very disappointed. Not making the final makes an Olympic experience pretty anticlimactic. I felt like I was walking away from Rio as just a participant in the Olympics. I had a wealth of fitness that wasn’t going to be used this year. While I know part of me should be “just happy to have been there,” my competitive spirit wants more. I watched the 5000m final and I didn’t feel like being in that race was out of reach.
While I didn’t want Rio to be a just a learning experience, it’s exactly what I needed to be more successful at future major games. While I desperately wanted to make the final on the biggest stage, not doing so gives me something to work towards at World’s next year. I finished 20th and 15 make the final, which is encouraging.
This year was an absolute joy and beyond just making the Olympics, I accomplished some very important goals. I proved to myself what I’ve believed for a very long time, that I could run sub 15:20 in the 5000m and make a major games team. While I was hovering around that sub-elite level, I always dreamed of having this season, the really big breakthrough. I’m more excited about my future in the sport than I ever have been. In the moment, it can seem as though the Olympics are just about one race, but for me those games were about conquering the last four years and letting go of all of the missed goals, injuries and coaching changes. Leaving Rio left me with a welcomed sense of closure.