On Sunday, Melissa Bishop-Nriagu hit the Olympic standard, clocking 1:59:04 in the women’s 800 meters. This will be the 32-year-old’s third Olympics. It will also be her first as a mom.
Coming out of a frustrating race in Eugene, where her performance was less than she had hoped for, Bishop-Nriagu knew she needed to go for it in California. She had made plenty of sacrifices over the past year, including transplanting her family to Vancouver for a three-month training cycle.
“My husband Osi has been so amazing,” she says. “There is a balance I like to have between family and work, both bring me energy in different ways so I want to make my time [away] as efficient as I can.”
On the track in California, putting her trust in the pacer, got her through the first 600m fast—keeping her focused on pushing to the line in her last 100. It was close. So close she didn’t know she’d made the standard until her coach confirmed it. Three months out from Tokyo, she has a sense of relief because the new Olympic system has made it tough getting into races ranked high enough to meet qualifying standards.
How was she able to make a third run at an Olympic standard while still running after her daughter? For Bishop-Nriagu, when she got back to training, it was all about consistency. “I’ve had time to allow my body to rest and push it when necessary,” she says. “The biggest difference between 2018 and now is that I’ve consistently been putting my training together, like strings of months of training and I’ve remained injury-free.”
Looking ahead, Bishop-Nriagu is grateful for her team who have invested in her goal of an Olympic medal. “My goals haven’t changed and we have a small team of people who are very invested in this goal with me; including my late coach Dennis, and my daughter Corinne.” It’s the people she holds close to her—her daughter, her coaches, her family and her husband, who are the reasons she is fighting for this goal. “A successful Games will be shared with a lot of people in my corner, not just me.”
Olympic goals notwithstanding, Bishop-Nriagu admitted to still struggling with “mom guilt.” In speaking with other working moms, she found the advice she received was pretty simple: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know Corinne is fine, she’s happy and doesn’t seem to notice I’m gone,” she says. Yet even on this trip, she admits to feeling a little sad about being way from her daughter, wondering if it’s all worth it. “Now that I’ve run the standard, I can confidently say that yes, it was worth it.” And it fills her with pride, as she should, that Corinne is able to see her mom doing bad-ass things.
Anna Lee Boschetto is a regular iRun contributor, freelance writer and runner with two incredible daughters.