"We have a great opportunity here," Jo Pavey said before we stepped onto the track for our final pre-race strides. We were in Somerville, MA at the Adidas Boost Boston Meet last weekend preparing to run the 5,000 meters, and I was chatting with the multi-time Olympian from Great Britain about sharing pacing duties. Many of the women in the field were chasing the Olympic Standard (15:24), and we agreed to work together to keep the pace honest and all help each other reach the time.
As I looked across the stadium packed with fans, smiled for the camera as it panned across the faces of me and my competitors, and listened to the official's final instructions, I focused on Jo's words. Opportunity. The chance to run a real fast 5k. Possibility. To run yet another PR. Seize this moment. You're in the best shape of your life. DO IT!
The gun went off, and I found my spot in line, hugging the rail and clicking off 74's. We came through the first mile in 4:56, right on my goal pace. The first mile of a 5k usually (hopefully!) feels comfortable, but I knew it was about to get hard real quick.
Our chase pack picked up the pace a bit and I was on the back of the train, still running 74s and determined to not lose contact. Two women dropped out behind me, and then there were just 9 of us. We rolled through 3k in 9:14 (a 3k PR for me, haha) but that didn't register in my mind mid-race. All I knew was that I was on 5k PR pace and I just had to find 5 more fast laps.
Jo's words echoed through my head: opportunity. When the lactic acid sets in and your legs are screaming, you've got to stay positive. With each stride, Jo's words became the mantra I clung to. My pace slowed a bit, but a 5k PR was still within reach, if I could just keep it together.
And then there were just 2 laps to go - time to battle! Liz Costello, a friend and fellow competitor, and I had been trading positions back and forth in the final mile. With 200 to go, I tried to make a move, but Liz's closing speed was more than I had that day. She won this round, but really, we were both victors, as we battled each other and pushed one another to new personal bests! We both closed in 70 seconds, the fastest last laps in the field second only to winner Meseret Defar (2 time Olympic champion!!). All those strides I've been doing must be paying off! ;)
I was elated with my new PR of 15:29.89 - it's always fun to break a barrier like 15:30, and even more fun to be feeling fit and confident leading into a big race. The Olympic Trials are just 8 days away - another incredible opportunity. I'll be using Jo Pavey's positive attitude as inspiration and hope to seize that moment to do something great!