The Women’s 10,000m Semifinal
September 26, 1988
On day 4 of Athletics competition, my race day finally arrived. In 1988 both men and women had to run a 10,000m semifinal, unlike at London 2012 when the 10,000m was run as a straight final. The qualifying time to compete was much easier in 1988 than in 2012 (32:45 versus 31:45). That meant about 40 women were entered in the event, but only 20 could compete in the final.
My Canadian teammates in the 10,000m, Sue Lee and Carole Rouillard, were in Heat 1, and I was in Heat 2. To make the final, we had to place in the top eight; the next four fastest times from the two semifinals would also advance. The first heat was fast. The automatic qualifiers all ran better than my PB of 32:15, and the next four times were also fast. So I went into the race knowing that I would almost certainly have to finish in the top eight to make the final. Pretty nerve-wracking.
To be honest, I don’t remember much about the race until near the end. The best runners didn’t run the pace they were capable of; it was a matter of staying in a close pack, concentrating intensely to avoid getting tripped yet maintaining contact. My training log reminds me that the pace sped up gradually as the race progressed. 4:54 for the last mile! I shake my head at that now.
With a lap to go, I was still in a huge pack of runners. I’m not sure if I knew exactly what place I was in, but this was where instinct took over and told me I had to give everything and just hope my effort would take me over the line in eighth place or better. With 300m to go I was struck with a stabbing abdominal cramp. The pain of it threatened to force me to stop; but somehow I had to ignore it; somehow I sprinted in spite of it; and I finished in seventh place in 32:16, securing my spot in the final.
Sue and Carole also qualified for the final, running faster times than mine. We were jubilant. Canada would have three competitors in this first Olympic women’s 10,000m! We had four days to rest and get nervous before the final.
Meanwhile, the Village and the outside world were still buzzing about one of the most momentous races in history: the men’s 100m final, which happened exactly 24 years ago today, on September 24, 1988. Ben Johnson of Canada won the race in dramatic style, trouncing a stellar field that included American Carl Lewis (who finished second) and setting a new world record of 9.79 seconds.
Canada went wild with pride and celebration.But, as everyone knows, it was a victory whose magnificence would be outdone by the following disgrace. See my next post for details.
* Note: Running photos in this post were taken from the Library and Archives website of Canada at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca, used with permission. You can view other photos of me running at the Olympics at http://tiny.cc/nf64kw .
* The Globe and Mail published an iconic photo of Ben at the finish line of the 1988 100m final in their “Moment in Time” feature of today’s paper (page 2). However, I couldn’t find the article online to publish the link here.
Olympic Training Log
September 24, 1988
AM: Ran easy 27 min, mostly on grass pentathlon X-C course, then did 5 easy strides on grass at track. Felt good—smooth and easy. About 5 miles.
September 25, 1988
AM: Did 1,500m continuous swim, about 32:50. Stomach a bit upset today.
September 26, 1988
AM: Raced 10,000m heat. Qualified for final, 7th in 32:16.27. Race very slow at first, sped up every mile, last mile 4:54, last 1K 3:00. Felt good except got bad abdominal cramp with 300m to go, pain almost forced me to stop. Felt good after—not too tired—Achilles very sore but improved during day. About 9 miles counting warmup, warmdown.
September 27, 1988
AM: Did swim workout. 1K just under 22:00. Ladder—50m, 100m, 150m, 200m, 250m and back down. Followed by 35 min easy weights. Felt good today—calves, hamstrings a little sore, but Achilles much better.
September 28, 1988
AM: Ran easy for 35 min, on pentathlon course and track infield. Felt OK—a bit sluggish and calves pretty sore today. About 5 miles. Stomach upset today.
September 29, 1988
AM: Did 1,500m swim, about 33:00. Still sluggish.