On October 1st I competed in the semifinals of the 3000m Steeplechase at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. One of the greatest beauties of sport is the way it so often boils down to one crystallized, encapsulated moment. For the athlete, their coaches, and their support team, a championship serves as the vaulted, definitive moment whereby the many weeks and months preceding are justified, evaluated, and put on display. There is an excitement and an urgency that championships bring and the prospect of high achievement on the highest stage is an allure that keeps competitors coming back for more year after year, no matter what level they find themselves competing on.
For me, my first Global Championship was a reminder of that hungry feeling championships bring, both during and after. I had worked so hard for so long to finally get to this stage and--like my many competitors--had aspirations to achieve something great, something beyond myself that would validate the efforts I'd put in to reach this deciding moment. Over the entire course of my preparation for the World Championships my desire was to overcome the dangerous trap of a "just-happy-to-be-here" attitude. The effort simply to qualify for these championships stretched my physical and mental fortitude and I knew that to achieve the standard would be a reward in itself. Still, once my selection to the Canadian team for Doha was confirmed, I was determined to enter with the mindset that I had earned my place on the starting line and to do everything in my power that would ensure I was ready to compete when my "moment" finally came.
While other-humanly performance was what I strove for in my preparation and execution, the reality was perhaps a more predictable outcome: An 8:33 clocking and failure to advance to the final. Not bad... not amazing either. As is so often the case when finding yourself on a new, higher, stage than you've ever competed on, mine was a huge learning experience at the World Championships. I deliberately shied away from that sort of rhetoric to describe my experience as it transpired, wanting to do everything in my power to avoid precluding myself psychologically from a breakthrough performance. Nonetheless, in reflecting on these championships, I think there is no better way to describe my experience than eye-opening: the moves were faster, the competitors bolder, and the whole thing more intense and immersive than any racing experience I have had before.
I went out hard, but at a pace that I knew I could handle, hitting the first km in 2:51 and around 4th place. This was a place I had been many times before already this season, controlled, present in the race, and poised to crank out another km like the first. Except here, there would be no other km like the first. Instead, the pace seemed almost imperceptibly to ratchet up, I could feel guys start to push. My second kilometre was testament to my inexperience and I opted for the safe strategy that had worked all season for me--albeit in lesser races against lesser competition. I opted to hold steady at the pace of my first kilometre, letting one athlete go by and then another and then another. By the mile I had drifted well back in the pack and missed the break which would prove to separate the eventual finalists from the rest. I clued in and began reeling other athletes back in but it was too-little too late and despite a faster third kilometre the race had long-ago been decided.
As is so often the case with an underwhelming performance, I struggle even now to describe my feelings post-race, perhaps dissatisfaction bordering on disappointment for my own lacklustre showing but mixed with excitement and admiration for having been party to something great. More than anything else, however, my experience in Doha has left me hungry for so much more in my sport.
There are so many takeaways from these Championships for me. I was the beneficiary of an incredibly supportive, professional, and competitive Canadian team; from my fellow athletes to the coaches, managers, IST and support staff, countless thanks to all those who ensured my first global championship was such a positive experience, I can't wait to compete with you again.
To my coach, Chris Johnson, no thank you could ever be enough to convey how appreciative I am for his diligence, hard work, and relentless belief in me. CJ sacrificed his summer to ensure that I was in the best possible way going into these championships and my accomplishments are as much his as they are mine.
I have now had only a taste of what competing on the the highest level in my sport has to offer, but it was enough to reinvigorate me, inspire me, and challenge me to keep striving. It is my absolute joy and privilege to compete. Thank you, Doha, for confirming that for me.