The Choice to Run Clean

This entry originally ran on the sports page of the Seattle Times.

Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of people commenting that everyone in track and field is on drugs. With the recent doping charges in our sport, I want it to be known that are still a lot of hard working people out there – people who go through things like what I’m going through right now just to get back out on the track, and be able to race and do what they love.

I’m a clean athlete, and my life has completely changed from last year to this year. Last year, I was ranked fourth in the world and running all over the globe, having a pretty good season except  for not making the Olympic team. This year, I ran in three meets and had to have surgery on my knee. I missed the entire European circuit and pretty much my entire season.

When I first hurt my knee back in March, before the outdoor season started, I thought it was something that would go away. Instead, it lingered. I continued trying to race and train hard but I couldn’t perform the way I wanted to. It’s very frustrating when you give your all to train at your peak performance, but your body is stopping you. I was not able to train my best going into the U.S. Track and Field Championships this spring, and I tried to push through.

My club coach, Shirley Wroten, used to always tell me I was a warrior because I would fight through anything and race through any conditions.This year, after fighting through this injury at USAs, I finally understood what she meant. I just keep going and going until my body can’t go any more. Most athletes do that, but it’s not always a good thing. After not making the finals, my season was done.

It turned out that I had bone-on-bone bruising in my left knee, and there were two big patches where there was no cartilage. Without the cartilage, there was nothing to absorb impact, and that’s my lead leg for hurdling. So that’s where the constant pain was coming from in my knee.

After consulting with a doctor, I went ahead and had surgery. Surgeons went in and cleaned it up, and then inserted some artificial cartilage. It’s a new technique, and my doctor said he’s been having pretty good results with it. The hope is it will make my knee like new.

It’s really very hard coming back from injuries. You have to take the time off. You have to know how to be patient, and slowly climb your way back to peak performance. It can be a long, grueling process. But that is exactly what it takes.

That’s what makes athletes who compete dirty so frustrating. You see them have injury after injury, maybe even a surgery, and come back a few short months later just flying. I’m not saying that those kinds of recoveries aren’t possible naturally, but they’re not normal. And when an athlete recovers and then tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs, it’s a real slap in the face of everyone else who’s clean. Because we’ve believed that coming back quickly was possible when it wasn’t. We’ve questioned why our recoveries took so much longer.

It takes away from everything that sports should be about. I’m spending a lot of money on my body just to be able to run again through these surgeries, going through rehabilitation and traveling from place to place. It’s because this is something that I love to do. I have a real passion and love for this sport, and a talent in it.

I wish there was a way that people could see that not everyone in this sport is doping. I wish they could be with us and see what we go through: How much time we put in at the track, in the weight room, at physical therapy, getting in ice baths and maintaining a healthy diet. For a lot of athletes, it’s a matter of having to train in different places and being away from your family.

There are certain demands put on us through sponsors and appearances. Some athletes even compete without contracts and have gone years without a contract, just doing it for the love of the sport and trying to climb their way back to the top. To me, the true athletes are those who say that no matter what, they’re going to do this, to accomplish a personal goal for themselves.

I want to encourage fans to keep supporting track and field, especially with the recent cloud that has been hanging over the sport. There’s a lot that goes into this as a career, and not everybody is a cheater. A lot of people are putting their blood, sweat and tears into this, and making sacrifices so that they can accomplish something great. We still do have a lot of genuine, hard-working athletes out there who are wonderful people to look up to and follow. There are the Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s of the world, who are no longer running, but are still out there, doing good.

We need your support to keep doing it. We aren’t all taking the easy way out. I hope my journey is a clear example of clean athletes going from peak success, to injuries, to climbing back to success with nothing more but pure, hard work.

Ginnie Falls Just Short in U.S. Semifinal

Ginnie Crawford’s bid to make her fourth IAAF World Championships came up just short on Saturday at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

After a great performance on Friday evening to finish second in her heat and place seventh overall in the field during preliminaries, Ginnie finished fifth on Sunday in her semifinal heat with a 12.67 second time identical to that which she ran in Friday’s preliminary.

Her time was eighth fastest between the two semifinal races, but rather than taking the top eight overall times, the USATF takes the top four from each semifinal heat to the final, which left GC out of the final for the first time since she started competing at the senior level. Afterward, Ginnie took to Twitter to share her thoughts.

A Season’s Best in Rome

With just two weeks until the USA Outdoor Championships, Ginnie Crawford picked a great time for her best run of the year.

Ginnie ran the 100-meter hurdles in a season’s best 12.90 seconds to finish third on Thursday at the Samsung Diamond League Golden Gala in Rome, Italy.

It was Ginnie’s first sub-13-second run of the 2013 outdoor season and she as she tweeted afterward, a confidence builder.

TRAINING PARTNERS
Prior to racing on Thursday in Rome, Ginnie got so practice time in during the Italian trip with training partners Allyson Felix, Dawn Harper and Jeneba Tarmoh. After they finished their session, the quartet mugged it up for the camera.

CATCHING UP

Meets like Thursday’s in Rome are about more than competition for Ginnie and her fellow athletes. They also enjoy a special camaraderie of elite athletes and the Golden Gala give GC a chant to meet up with good friend Natasha Hastings, a 400-meter specialist.

Like Ginnie, Hastings finished third in Rome and afterward the two posed for a photo that Hastings later posted on Instagram.

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Ginnie Takes Second in Beijing

The 2013 outdoor season is sure to present it’s challenges, but Ginnie Crawford got over the first hurdle well on Tuesday night in Beijing.

In her first event since April, Ginnie took second place in the 100-meter hurdles at the IAAF World Challenge Beijing meeting. Times were low across the board in Beijing and GC’s time of 13:03 was just .16 shy of winner Kellie Wells, last year’s bronze medalist in the event.

GINNIE’S VIEW 

Ginnie Crawford relishes the opportunity to give her fans an inside look at her life and career and this season, she’s using Instagram to give fans behind the scenes access.

The IAAF World Challenge Beijing meet took Ginnie on her first international road trip of the 2013 Outdoor season. For the trip across the Pacific Ocean showed off her Team Nike pride.

Upon arriving at the hotel, Ginnie tweeted out the view from her room.

Arriving early gave Ginnie and training partner Jeneba Tarmoh a chance to explore the city before the meet.

Tuesday was race day at the Bird’s Nest and Beijing, but not before Ginnie and training partner Allyson Felix had some fun for the camera.

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Feeling Strong as Outdoor Season Approaches

It’s starting to heat up out here on the West Coast and I’m really starting to feel like it’s that time as we get ready for the first outdoor meets of the season next month. My body reacts to that change and it starts to feel like it’s ready.

The offseason went by really quick. I’ve been training for a couple months now, but to be back in a race all of a sudden, felt quick.

During indoors, I ran the 60-meter hurdles, so it’s a little different than the 100, but I don’t really prepare any differently. Actually, we didn’t even do much hurdling in training before I went out for the three meets I ran in. We don’t put much focus on indoors, so we were training straight through the meets. The races are more of a way to break up training and have some fun.

It felt good to get back in it, but I could definitely tell I have some work to do. I ran my fastest time of the indoor season at the Millrose Games in New York and that was the same time I ran last year.

The week of that meet, we didn’t hurdle at all in training. I just went and that’s when I ran my fastest time, so it may have helped to prepare that way. I was pleased that despite not really hurdling and being in the middle of fall training that I was able to run that time.

Obviously you always want to win the meets you’re in. I think that’s every competitor’s focus, whether you’re ready or not. But I also use indoors to see what I need to work on. It’s an opportunity to get back into the feel and groove of things. I worked a little bit on my arms as I was going over the hurdles, things like that I noticed. I feel better about where I am coming out of indoors than I did going in.

Coming off a strong healthy season for myself last year, it motivates me to keep working hard to maintain that health. It had been a while since I made it through a whole season healthy and I ran better times than I had in a while last year, so that gives me confidence as I approach the new season. I just want to maintain that as I get ready for the 2013 outdoor season.

Being healthy has allowed me to keep a focus on what’s ahead for me and not worry about injuries or going to physical therapy and overcoming things that happened in the past. When you can focus on training and just going harder and harder, mentally it helps you feel good about yourself and your preparation.

For this season, my goal is the same as it has been every year of my career and that’s to be the best.  I want to make the World Championship team this year and be competing for the USA over in Moscow at Worlds. Once I get there, I want to win the gold medal. That’s the goal that I work toward every day. I know that everybody else out there is working for the same thing, whether they say it or not.

That’s the crazy part, it’s kind of an unspoken thing, but we’re all working toward the exact same goal and you always have to remember that. When you’re training and going hard, you think about how everyone else is doing the same thing, so you can’t let up.

Ginnie Takes Second At Millrose Games

Running on U.S. soil competitively for the first time in 2013, Ginnie Crawford put in her best race of the young season on Saturday at the 106th Millrose Games.

In her third indoor 60-meter hurdles competition of the season, Ginnie improved on her season’s best time by a full tenth of a second and finished second with a run of 7.97 at the iconic indoor event. She ended up just .13 off the race-winning pace set by Yvette Lewis. Afterward, Ginnie tweeted that she was pleased with the effort.

A capacity crowd of more than 4,000 spectators was on hand for the event and Ginnie paid tribute to them after the race.

GC Makes Big Stride in Second Race of Season

With each race in the start to her 2013 season, Ginnie Crawford is taking strides toward improvement.

That was the case again on Friday in Dusseldorf, Germany as Ginnie Crawford ran the 60-meter hurdles in a season’s best time of 8.07 to finish fifth at the PSD Bank Indoor meeting. Ginnie’s time of 8.07 was a full tenth better than her 8.17-second run last weekend at the Russian Winter Meeting.

NEXT UP
Ginnie is back in action next Saturday, August 16 as she returns to the U.S. to compete in the Millrose Games at the Armory in New York City.

The event can be seen live on ESPN3.com starting at 4 p.m. PST. The women’s 60-meter hurdles are scheduled for a 5:10 p.m. PST start time.

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Back to Work

I’ve been back on the track for about a month now, and it feels like I never left. We started training in early December, and after a few weeks, I feel like I’m right where I need to be, and I’m building a great base.

I’m honestly doing a little better than I thought I was going to do. The first two weeks of training are just so grueling you almost feel like you’ve never run track before, after sitting for the offseason and trying to get back into the groove of it. It’s hard to get back into that routine of going hard, and tiring your body out every day. But after a week or two, you fall right back into place. That doesn’t mean the workouts get any easier, though.

I’ve made a few changes in my training going into this season. The biggest was in my weight-training program. I started working with Travelle Gaines, who is a really well known trainer and works with a lot of NFL players. So far, he has been amazing. He’s encouraging and very down to earth.

The atmosphere is very different from what I’m used to for weight training. There are a lot of pro athletes who train with Travelle in there working hard daily. Being in that kind of atmosphere for any athlete, I think, is motivating. You have no choice but to jump in, train the same way and not lag.

I really like Travelle because he’s very knowledgeable and he makes me work hard. I could see a difference in my body and my strength level in just the first two weeks. I like the areas of my body that we’re strengthening, and I like the non-stop workouts. That’s like my personality: go, go, go.


I’m thankful for everyone that had helped me and previously trained with because they were there at that time to help me with what I was trying to accomplish. But I’m happy to have moved on to this atmosphere, and Travelle as a coach. I have no doubt that he’s going to help me get better.

My average day starts at around 6 a.m, so I can say my prayers, eat breakfast and get ready. I have to be in the weight room to meet Travelle at 8 a.m., and we work out non-stop for an hour. It’s a lot of circuit training and he doesn’t let me stop moving for that hour. From there, I head over to UCLA to do my running workout with the group and Bobby Kersee.

The group is a little smaller this year because some people retired or are taking some time off, so there’s just five of us. We’ve been doing a little more hurdling early this year, and that’s the earliest we’ve ever pulled out the hurdles, so that’s something different that I like. But mostly we just run.

We never know what Bobby has planned before we get there. There’s never really a set timeframe for our workouts. It’s more based on how many meters we’re running that day, and how those are broken down. But it always feels good when you get through that workout, and you’re like, “Wow, I did better than I thought I could.”

I can remember one workout in particular that was pretty crazy. He had us start off with two fast 500ms, and he had us thinking we were done. Our legs were really heavy and had a lot of lactic acid build-up, and then he had us walk 400 meters, get on the line and start another sprint. We don’t usually do that many, but by the end of the workout, we’d done a few 200s, a couple 300s and then an all-out 200 at the end. It really broke us down, but that’s the kind of training that we like. When you break your body down like that, that’s what gets you to where you need to be.

There’s definitely a method to his madness. Sometimes we don’t understand what he’s doing, where he’s coming from or why he’s doing what he is, but it’s proven to work. I think a lot of athletes feel that way about their training and can relate to that. All we know is that it works.

NEW HORIZONS
I still have my sights set on doing indoors this season. Usually we train through indoors, but I think I’ll be ready to go and put out a good race when the time comes in February.

With the recent events in Connecticut and with my uncle passing, one of the things I’ve realized is that I want to take everything I’m doing and just enjoy it, because you never know when it can be taken away from you. I’m really appreciative and thankful for the opportunities that I have. A lot of people would kill to be in the position we’re in, and to be able to compete on a world-class level in any sport.

I never want to be complacent or complain or take anything for granted, because it can all be gone and it will be gone one day. I’m not going to run track forever. I don’t want to look back and say I didn’t enjoy this or appreciate these moments.

A place to set and knock down goals.

I’m looking ahead to 2013 an opportunity and a clean slate. 2012 was a great year. Yeah, I wanted some things to go differently, but I’m always a person who is humbled and thankful. I did the best that I could in every race. There are always things that you can do better on or change or add to your workouts. But I can really say that I left the line for every race knowing that I put it all out there.

I just want to continue doing that on the track and in my life period, putting it all out there, putting my best foot forward and working hard. And the things I wasn’t able to do make me even hungrier and drive me to work even harder going forward.

Another thing I’ve learned is that if you stay stuck in the past, it’s really hard to jump into your future, whether it goes the way you want it to or not. I just leave it all behind, because in track, with it being a World Championship year especially, people forget what you’ve done. It’s all about what you’re going to do and the World Championships. When the next Olympics comes around, it will be the same thing. You can’t dwell on what you’ve accomplished because no one else does, and you end up left behind.

I pretty much have the same goal I always have and that’s to be the best. Every time anyone steps on the line, they want to be the best. My goal is to be the best hurdler, go to World Championships and win a gold medal. Whatever it is at the top of my game that I can accomplish, that’s my goal.

Looking Back, Moving Forward and Celebrating a VMA BDay

I’m coming off one of the most successful track seasons of my career. Pushing aside what happened at Trials, it was a pretty good year for me.

When I missed out on the Olympics, I never would have imagined the rest of my season going as well as it did. In those first few days after Trials, I was questioning whether I would ever be successful at this. It was in that next race I ran in Paris on July 6th that things clicked and it was different. I ran a season’s best that day, a 12.59. It was my best time since 2007.

It wasn’t the fastest time, but at that moment, given where I had been emotionally those few days before, I was so appreciative of it. Even though I didn’t win that race, it was probably my best meet of the season since it was my fastest time. That’s how I gauge it, not on whether I win or not. It was a positive for me and brought an upside to my season.

After that, I started to look at the rest of the season a little differently. I knew that I could go out and win some races, try to get a decent world ranking and go for the Diamond League title. I thought maybe I could even get another season’s best or maybe a PR. I really started looking forward to racing again. It gave me some confidence and I finished out that post-Trials stretch with two wins and several fast times.

I came home after that and kept working. Having to stay home and train while the Olympics were going on was really hard. I wanted to try to get another season’s best or at least pick back up where I left off before the Olympics. I didn’t want to go backwards. I think I did pretty well managing that. I just tried to maintain everything I did before. It’s hard to push yourself when you’re just by yourself and everyone was gone at the Olympics.

My coach Bobby Kersee gave me some workouts to do and Shawn helped me out by coaching me through my flat running and my hurdling. I kept up the training and kept up in the weight room. I just tried to remember how I’d run before and focus on how I could try and better my time. That was my goal, to better my times and get wins.

I have a lot of faith in my training. I don’t think that the way I trained and the things I did kept me from succeeding at trials, I just don’t think I peaked at the right time. I think I peaked a little later in the season than I’d like to, but I never felt it coming on. I went over there ready to have fun and I ran my season’s best. That was a peak for me.

Watching the Olympics and then going to Europe and facing those runners that I saw run the event at the Olympics motivated me. It made me want to be on my P’s and Q’s and see what I could do the rest of the season. I went on to win two more races after the Olympics against some of the best competition in the world. I’m proud of that.

My last race in Croatia at the Zagreb meet is the one that will stick with me. It felt good to go out with a bang and finish my season with a W. We were all tired at that point, but I had a good time. It was a good feeling to end right there. I’ve only finished two whole seasons in my career. It’s hard to finish a whole season injury-free in this sport because it’s so long. But to finish what I started and do it with a W sticks out to me the most.

I know now that I have that in me. This is something that I love and I’m not going to give it up. There are a lot of athletes I saw this year that really triumphed and I was at these meets so I saw them go through their ups and downs. Some of these people made their first team this year. For me, I’ve made teams before and I know I can do it again. But just watching those people never give up and being patient, it’s inspiring.

VMA BDAY
The day after I got back home from that meet in Croatia, a friend of mine surprised me for my birthday with tickets to the MTV Video Music Awards here in LA.

Enjoying my early birthday present!

It was a last-second thing the day before my birthday and she totally got me. I was going to get my hair done and she called me and told me to be ready in a few hours. It was exciting.

I’d never been to the VMA’s before. I’ve been to the BET Awards and a lot of other functions down here, but not the VMA’s.

It was interesting to pull back the curtain and see how everything is done behind the scenes. It’s so different from what you would see on TV during the show. They’re constantly setting and re-setting the stages.

When you’re watching at home, it makes it look like the performers have just come out when their performance starts, but you can see them already sitting there when you’re at the show.

They’ll be presenting awards and saying “next we’ll have a performance from such and such” and that artist is already sitting on stage waiting. You can watch the stage being built and they’re constantly moving people around in the first row. It’s all very choreographed.

All the people that are standing on the floor by the stage, they keep repositioning them to keep building the stage. It’s almost like they’re a part of the act. It is a lot of work. At first I wanted to be down there by the stage, but after seeing them moved around all the time, I was glad we weren’t down there.

Where we were sitting, we had great seats and could see everything. We had a great view of the entire venue, not just the stage. We were looking around to see all the artists and point out people. We saw Lil Wayne, Nikki Minaj, Drake, Chris Brown, all those guys. That was pretty cool. My favorite performance was Alicia Keys. Pink’s performance was good too.

It was a great start to a great birthday weekend. Everybody treated the whole weekend like it was my birthday all the way until Monday. I had a fantastic birthday, one of the best I’ve ever had.

First at the Finish Line

Ginnie Crawford crossed the finish line for the final time in 2012 on Tuesday and it was only fitting that she did so in first place.

With her 2012 season at its end, Ginnie saw Tuesday’s Hanzekovic Memorial race in Zagreb, Croatia as a chance to give it her last best shot. GC did just that, running one of her best races of the year to finish first in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 12.68. The win was her sixth and final one of 2012. Watch the race below:

After the race, Ginnie used her Twitter account to thank her fans for their support all season long:

Thank you everybody for the well wishes and congrats!! I came away with the win in my last race of the season with 12.68!!

— Ginnie Crawford (@GinnieCrawford) September 4, 2012

Ginnie’s six wins mark her most ever in an individual season and they all came in different countries. After starting her season in the Caribbean, where she picked up her first win in the Cayman Islands on May 9th, Ginnie returned to North America and won a tuneup for the Olympic Trials in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on June 13th.

She went on to finish fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials, a heartbreaking four-tenths of a second away from being an Olympian. But Ginnie used the disappointment as a motivator and capped her season with four more wins after the Trials. In her first race post-trials she posted a season’s best 12.59 in Paris, her fastest time since 2007.

Ginnie followed that up with a win in Nancy, France a few days later and then posted her second best time of the year —12.61 — to win in Luzern, Switzerland just one week after her win in France. Following a trip home for some R&R, Ginnie hit the track hard again after the Olympics and won twice more. The first of those two came in Linz two weeks ago and she followed it up with Tuesday’s victory in Zagreb.

All told, Ginnie established herself as one of the world’s best in the 100-meter hurdles in 2012, with six wins and six times in the World Top 50.

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