Agony, ecstasy, heart-warming reward, heart-rending disappointment: fans of running are used to seeing these dramatic and conflicting emotions played out very much in public on race day, sometimes in quick succession. Think, for example, of the athlete coming across the line in third place at the Olympic Trials, and then of the athlete finishing fourth.
But those sensations play out privately in training, as well, and this morning’s news illustrates just how wrenching and wondrous the sport can be even when no one is watching from the stands.
Two years ago this week, Chris Solinsky had just run 26:59.6 to smash the American record for 10,000 meters at the 2010 Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in his first attempt at the distance. Solinsky was the first non-African to break the 27-minute barrier, and his future looked assured.
He was the portrait of an athlete on top of the world.
Then, just two weeks before he was to represent the United States at 5000 meters in the 2011 IAAF World Championships, Solinsky ripped a hamstring when he tripped going down the stairs. He has not raced since. Yesterday, he announced that he will not be ready to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials next month. His Olympic dream for 2012 is over.
"I'm 27 years old and I'm just getting in the prime of my career," Solinsky told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in a telephone interview from his home in Portland, OR. "I was setting myself up to have a really legitimate chance to win a medal [in London].
"That's been the hardest part, because of where I saw my progression going and what I was capable of."
Meanwhile, 700 miles to the south, Kara Goucher—ironically, also coached by Jerry Schumacher as a member of the Oregon Track Club Elite—is preparing for London with training partner Shalane Flanagan after both made the U.S. Olympic marathon team in January. Adam Goucher is blogging about his wife’s journey toward London, photographing her as she trains with a breathtaking landscape as life's backdrop. The posts are filled with joy and optimism.
“Saturday, Kara embarked on the longest run of her entire life: 3 hours!” reads the post for April 21.
It’s a portrait of an athlete on the top of the world.
And the two stories, taken together, are a portrait of the sport.