By Michelle Clarke
Canada’s Sarah Wells and the women’s field took to their lanes for the 400M hurdles and I had a special interest in this race. As the women got settled into the starting blocks, this was a strong field of highly accomplished athletes.
These short distances are so fast and frantic that nothing can be predicted, and no one can be counted out until the very end. American Shamier Little gracefully glided over the hurdles, racing smart and strong. She had the gold. But with 100M left to go there was a surge from the entire field and Wells who was in fourth for much of the race, blasted forward pushing herself so hard and taking the silver in 56.17 seconds.
Wells is a very down to earth athlete. At the beginning of the race, she showed her hands to the camera where she had I BELIEVE in marker on her palms. Since this is something a friend and I have done for our harder races, I couldn’t wait to talk to her about this pre-race ritual. Athletes need reminders for those moments where we might doubt ourselves. Wells says her hand written note is actually her motto. “It has been part of who I’ve been an athlete,” she explains. “I knew on the line today I had potential to come home with a medal and I had to write that on my hand to remind myself and show the world so they held me accountable that I was going to do this today.”
Even more impressive, Sarah has had two tough years. A stress fracture putting her down for a season and then the very same injury almost taking her out of the PanAm competition. As a running blogger, coach and athlete I have always preached that runners should never run through injury, especially a stress fracture. At the highest level of competition, when you have your heart set on a medal and the Olympics, how much are you willing to risk?
Wells had so much to gain and yet so much to lose so I had to know, why did she do it? People, do not try this at home, Wells has a team of doctors guiding her through training and competition. Here’s a glimpse into what an athlete is willing to override to achieve their ultimate goal.
“I had to sit out last season because of this injury. So when I found out that I had the early signs of it again, I just couldn’t imagine shutting my season down. I asked and pleaded with the doctor to let me run at least until the Pan Am Games because running at home is something that happens so rarely. I wanted this experience and I wasn’t going to let that injury take it from me. I’ve been fortunate but I’m going to have to take a lot of time off now heading into the Olympic year. I’m not making it easy on myself, but it’s been worth it for this day.” –Sarah Wells
Wells is the kind of athlete that any young woman should follow. She has lived the ups and downs of training the red line. She’s determined and most importantly, she truly believes in herself and her coaching. Watching Wells walk away, I got the sense, it’s not a question of will she medal in the Olympics but a question of when.
Michelle Clark is a Toronto-based runner sharing her perspective on the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. Follow her on Twitter @runningchic and on Instagram @michelletherunner.