Don’t Call It a Come Back… And no, I’m not Giving Up

There are two sides to this story and a host of narratives in between. 

The first side to my tale, I made the difficult decision to cancel my trip to the US to start racing on the Pro Track Circuit again. 

I started training for shorter distance events again, specifically the 1500. While I previously moved up to the marathon the truth is I did not really like the training all that much, which probably aided in my ineptness at the event. Back to focusing on positives, I love the short, explosive intervals, the team camaraderie and the thrill of the shorter events. 

The plan was to return to the track last spring (2020) but the Pandemic hit. Life closed up. Tracks closed. I had the opportunity to move out of the city and continue to train, and while specifically not on a track, since we all the facilities across Canada closed, I kept myself engaged, motivated and trained through the summer months. 

As the Pandemic lingers and the Olympics draw closer athletes all of the world face challenging oppositions. Stay home to face uncertain training and racing options or head off to train and race where more of the world has opened up. The window of train-to-train has closed and we’ve moved into the train-to-compete phase.

The second side to this story, trying to run the Olympic Standard in the 1500m. It might be a ‘Hail Mary’ pass but not only am I excited to race again I believe I can run the standard. What I do not have access to here in Ontario, Canada right now are races. 

On April 7 Ontario enacted another Emergency Provincial Stay-at-Home Order. No gatherings with people outside your home. You are only to leave your house for essentials, like exercise (which you are to do alone), going to a pharmacy or groceries. Having learned nothing from the first two waves of the virus or what other countries faced during the pandemic, the Ontario Health Care System was overwhelmed. Faced with no other options across the country, provinces have closed up again.

Athletes were not exempt. Training spaces were reduced or eliminated. Competitions postponed or cancelled. We were back to the drawing board of the Pandemic but with the Olympics fast approaching. 

How Qualification Works

Well before the Pandemic, World Athletics (WA) introduced a points system, alongside a standards, to qualify athletes for World Championship events. “This system was introduced by WA to reward consistency and to promote racing as opposed to just running for time. It was also a way to incentivize athletes to race more often,” summarized by Madeleine Kelly in a recent interview with Canadian Running Magazine.

Introduce this without a Pandemic and it’s still rife with inequities. For instance, there are bonus points to the winner for having multiple countries in a race; so European races have a distinct advantage. Introduce this system during a pandemic and that equity divide grows larger. Athletes are rewarded for leaving their home countries to compete in races. Athletes that stay home might be penalized. 

Canada’s Travel Restrictions

Not only is travelling within Canada posing problems there are restrictions in place that make training and racing, once you’re returned home, impossible. When you return home to Canada one must quarantine at a single residents alone for 14 days, regardless of vaccinations or the number of negative tests. Further complicating the return home, if you fly back into Canada you can only enter at one of 4 international airports where you are immediately transferred to a ‘quarantine hotel’ at a minimum cost of $2000 for your three day stay. There is no gym access in these hotels, you stay in your room except for two fifteen-minute outside breaks (Forget being an athlete, that sounds like a mental health crisis in the making).

Once you exit the hotels or if you drive across the border, you cannot leave your property making training even more challenging. With running, sure we can jump on a treadmill, although it’s not the same specificity as a track, but team sports are at a significant disadvantage without being able to train together. I cannot imagine how hard it is for swimmers, who would lose the feel of the water over those two weeks. While there are exemptions for international amateur athletes that want to come to Canada to compete, should there be an event, Canadian citizens and residents are excluded from this exemption. 

I can only control my narrative

I’m not here to judge others for decisions they make. This is also not the platform to discuss the viability or the necessity for the Olympic games during a Pandemic. The athletes are being told the games will continue so we get up every day to train to put ourselves out there for the opportunity to qualify. 

My goal is to run the standard in the 1500m. I may not run the standard before the Olympic qualifying window ends, but I’ve accepted this reality during this pandemic. Given the tools at my disposal and the state of affairs in Canada I’m making the best of what I can during this situation (Right @OiselleSally, take those lemons and make lemonade?).

I currently have a great setup where Athletics Canada granted myself and a couple teammates access to the track with our coach. Together we push ourselves to be ready when the times comes. Somewhere between the narratives I’ll continue work through the struggles when they come and remind myself of all the positives around me – my health, my fitness, my family’s love and support. I’ll continue to do what I can to be in this with everyone to work towards a safe world where we can all compete and hug again. 

Head Up, Wings Out.