As an athlete, as a sports fan, as a runner, I love the Olympic Games. Any sport, rooting for any athlete, the stories and the people get me every time. Racing, if I indulge, I can see myself in the Olympian’s shoes. The effort put forth in the final stretch, the collapse after crossing a finish line—the discipline in the training and the selfishness required to bring out our very best. Sometimes, if I let myself, I can see myself in their shoes. The feeling of preparing for something, obsessing over it, and then giving it all I can.
Canada, and the Olympics, obviously aren’t perfect. COVID and politics and issues of real life aren’t to be minimized and no doubt there’s bad, even atrocious, associated both with the 125-year-old Olympic Games and our country, which is rightly coming coming to a reckoning for atrocities committed at residential schools.
However, during the Olympics, when Penny Oleksiak is in the pool or Malindi Elmore laces her sneakers; when Maggie Mac Neil, squinting at the scoreboard, realizes she took gold; when we all await for what’s next from Andre de Grasse, it’s hard not to be moved. And I want to be moved. I want to gather my kids and show them: you can do anything you set your mind on. No dream is too big. Set records. Be the best ever. Cheer for your country, your teammates. Even the commercials choke me up.
Runners train through a cycle to compete in our event. 10K, half marathon, charity run, ultra—whatever it is, we all live in preparation of race day. Olympians see this cycle, for one day, every four years. The pressure was too much for Simone Biles. Everyone understands. Flora Duffy, the women’s triathlon winner, Bermuda’s first gold medal winner, says she can’t do another grind of the cycle. It’s all consuming. It’s unpredictable. Every racer knows: do I really want to put myself through this again? We do. Again and again. And, as a sports fan, it’s enough to make me stand up and cheer.
Runners, I implore you, while you still can, lean into the Olympics. Listen to the stories. Root for Natasha and Dayna and Trevor and Julia, and all of our Canadian heroes. Root for all the heroes from all over the world. Their heart, my friends, can’t help but help us—lift us all in our lives, and at our next race.
Pictured, from the top, from their Instagram accounts, 2020 Tokyo Olympians Andre De Grasse, Gabriela De-Bues Stafford, and, from left, Natasha Wodak, Malindi Elmore and Dayna Pidhoresky.