When I first joined my high school track team in 1992 I dreamed of being a sprinter. I enjoyed accelerating off the turn to the finish in the 200 meters and could tolerate the 400 – mostly because I had more success with that event. I stayed with these events for first two years of high school and then gradually started moving up distances. My junior year I focused on the 400m and 800m and by my senior year it was the 800m and the 1500m. As the race distances increased so did my success so it was easy to fall in love with the longer distance. I stuck with these events through college.
Most high school athletes consider the 1500 meters a distance event. In college I became reclassified as a middle distance runner even though the number of laps I ran remained the same. Now being 40 and having an Ironman under my belt the thought of going all out for less than 4 laps definitely seems like a sprint! Funny how age and perspective can change your outlook so quickly!
Tonight at the IAAF World Championships in Portland was the women’s 1500 meter final. Although I do not run this event anymore – mainly because trying to sprint is an injury waiting to happen – the 1500 meters will always be my favorite. For me it was the perfect combination of speed and endurance. It allowed me some time to think, strategize and enjoy the track underneath my feet.
But tonight’s 1500 meters wasn’t about being nervous for my own race, it was about Team USA athlete, Brenda Martinez. I was fortunate enough to meet Brenda a few years back in Southern California on a photo shoot for Freeplay magazine. I quickly learned she was determined, a hard worker and a non-excuses type of athlete. I immediately became a fan.
Martinez advanced the 1500 meter final after running a 4:09.75 to grab the final automatic qualifier on Thursday. Going into the final she had the third fastest personal best and fourth best this season. I knew it would be a tough race due to the talent in the field including Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia (both who have personal bests under the 4-minute mark), but I truly felt she had as good as chance as any of the women to grab a spot on the podium.
Although she did not finish in one of the top 3 spots she did finish strong in 5th…yes 5th in the World. And what I loved the most was that despite get jostled a few times and running out in lane 2 to avoid the rails she stuck with it from start to finish. She kept me on the edge of my seat until she reached the finish line and never gave up. She inspired me to want to fight harder for my own goals and dreams!
I look forward to the final day of track and field today and to harnessing my own inner Brenda Martinez at my next race.
Results from the 1500 Meter Final
Sifan Hassan Netherlands 4:04.96 (Gold)
Dawit Seyaum Ethiopia 4:05.30 (Silver)
Gudaf Tsegay Ethiopia 4:05.71 (bronze)
Axumawit Embaye Ethiopia 4:09.37
Brenda Martinez 4:09.37
Melissa Duncan Australia 4:09.57
Renata Plis Poland 4:10.14
Violah Cheptoo Lagat Kenya 4:10.45
Danuta Urbanik Poland 4:12.59