Australian runner Heidi See was on her way to Rio when her Olympic campaign was devastatingly cut short.
The types of stories you hear during the Olympics are those of success and heroism. Stories where athletes face unforeseen adversities, but despite all, come out on top. We love – and continually subscribe – to this arc. They inspire us and give us hope. They tell us that if we persist, if we sacrifice and work hard enough, we will earn our life’s purpose.
My story is not quite the same. It’s missing that wonderful conclusion that we crave. I am not an Olympian, at least not just yet.
I have been running for most of my life. Growing up I always wanted to be a ‘professional runner’, and of course, an Olympian. It has absorbed the majority of my thoughts for most of my life – I am now 27 – and every one of my life’s decisions has been structured around this dream.
As the two-time Australian National 1500m Champion, and with a personal best just a second off the Olympic Standard, I was entering the last few months of the qualifying period with no doubts. The season so far had been wonderfully different. It challenged me, surprised me, and changed me as an athlete. I had checked every box, crushed every session, and could see all my dreams coming to life in front of me. I didn’t view myself as a one dimensional athlete anymore and I was experiencing the type of momentum you dream of as a runner.
But just one month before the end of the qualifying period, I was diagnosed with a stress reaction in my left fibula. I found out I had a bone injury when I was alone in my car, reading the radiologist’s report from my MRI. Immediately, after reading those dreaded words, I looked at the time: 2:30pm on June 10th. I told myself to remember this moment and how much it hurt. That this point in my life would be a catalyst for the rest of my career and will either break me or make me stronger. It was in this moment that I knew my Olympic Dream was no longer an option for me.
As an athlete you are always looking for things you could have executed better or should have done differently, but this time I don’t have the answer. Maybe I should have held back in training a little, but in hindsight that is so hard – especially when you feel strong and know that you need to work to earn a spot on the Olympic team. Because of the absolute worst timing, it feels like an unfair, deliberate test. A test that I didn’t study for, and ultimately ran out of time leaving so many tasks incomplete. One of the reasons this has been so difficult for me is because I was unprepared for failure. I wanted this so badly that I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge any other alternative.
“I am deathly afraid of almosts. Of coming so very close to where I want to be in life that I can almost taste it, almost touch it, then falling just a little short.” — Beau Taplin.
These ‘almosts’ are my nightmare and right now it feels like I am in the thick of it. But if I could do it again, would I be more reserved and guarded? Absolutely not. So where do I go from now?
Despite my Olympic campaign being cut short, there are still things I have accomplished this year that can never be taken from me.Becoming national champion for the second year in a row is something I am deeply proud of, and would not have happened if I didn’t truly believe I could be the best. Half the time people miss out on achieving something not because they were inherently incapable, but because they never genuinely thought it could happen. Like I’ve always been with anything I love, I’m all in.
What I’ve learnt so far from all of this is that the struggle is actually real, the work is relentless, but the rewards are second to none. I’ll just have to wait and see what else I discover along the way, confront my challenges head on, and then get back to doing what I do best.
August 12, 201611:24am