at the races The heroic Canadian finish that has us breathless for the Olympic Games

The heroic Canadian finish that has us breathless for the Olympic Games

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Julie-Anne Staehli is a Canadian distance runner who has electrified the country in the lead-up to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Prior to this season’s races, Staehli, 27, from London, Ontario and coached by Steve Boyd, had a personal best in the 5,000m of 15:47 minutes. Then she ran 15:32 in Austin on February 28. Then 15:24 in Kansas City on May 1. With those consecutive finishing times, and her broadcasting her ambitious goals on social media, Olympic watchers knew we might be in for something special when she toed the line at Mt. San Antonio College in Los Angeles Sunday night. The Olympic standard is 15:10. The clip above shows Julie-Anne’s victorious 15:02, a breathtaking victory. Here, she narrates her race and breaks down her winning approach to life’s uncertainties.

I’m a racer.

Usually, at these bigger meets, you feel the race out in terms of pacing. You have to be quick on your feet. My plan was to settle in, but once the laps were rolling and I could hear the splits I knew I was on track for something good. After 3K, I felt comfortable. 

That’s when I started to dig deep. 

Breaking a race into kilometres works really well. Know your numbers. For me in the 5K, it’s: 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 minutes. Any difference off that 3-minute pace is good for sub-15:10: 3:03, 6:06, 9:09. On Sunday, I was 9:12 through 3K, which is a bit slow. But it’s a good feeling when you’re past that halfway mark and feel comfortable. You’re in a good spot to bring it in.  

With two kilometres remaining, ‘close in,’ that’s what I’m thinking. My racing instinct kicks in. I forget about the time once I’ve seen the first 3K, which is familiar. I know I can hit certain times. In my mind, I split the last two kilometres in half. I can run 8:47, so seeing 9:12, I know I’m going to be OK.

I closed in out from 800 metres. Laura [Galvan Rodriguez] had beaten me the last two times out. She out-kicked me in Austin and Kansas in the last 300 metres. This time, when she had gone around and had 400 to go, I knew this was my shot to take the lead. 

There was a headwind in the last 100 metres. I felt it coming around the bend, but when Laura went wide into lane 2, the lights went out: I was just running.

I gave everything. It was internal. I don’t think I even saw what was happening. You just know the faster you go is the faster it’s finished. 

After I crossed, you need your body to catch back up with you. You look at the clock but everything is delayed. The first thing I do is sit down.  

Is it scary putting yourself on the line? Not really. 15 seconds faster, 25 seconds faster, more; what matters is the process. Working hard every step of the way, regardless of the outcome. The Olympics have so many unknowns, but the focus, day to day, is concentrating on what brings you joy.

The end vision, I can’t get too caught up in that. It’s just nice to be in a position where I can go all in. This Saturday, I have the chance to do it again.  

To follow Julie-Anne Staehli on Twitter and Instagram, please see @jastaehli