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.

Summer Through Ginnie’s Lens

It’s been a whirlwind summer for Ginnie Crawford, from competing through pain at the U.S. Championships to coaching in Cali, spending time with friends in family in LA and Seattle, then heading over to St. Louis, GC has seen plenty. Through her Instagram, she takes us along for the journey.

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.

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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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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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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Watching the Olympics and Finding Motivation

Shawn and I have been spending some time watching the Olympics, but it’s tough. He didn’t really realize how disappointing it was going to be until the opening ceremonies came on. He started feeling a little down watching that.

I didn’t watch the opening ceremonies at all, I just saw people tweeting about it. But if it’s something that upsets you, you have to just turn it off and that’s what we did. I got over it though and caught up on some stuff last week.

Since track and field started, I’ve been watching a lot more. I don’t think I could stay away if I tried. I don’t want to be a sore loser. But I think I speak for everybody who isn’t there when I say you can’t help but have a bit of bitterness to you. We were all training for the same thing and we all had the same goal to go to the games.

But I’m definitely still rooting for Team USA and some of my fellow Trojans over there. There are a lot of Trojans competing, so that made me proud. I’m rooting for them, everybody on Team USA and my training partners.

The 100-meter hurdles is going to be one of the most competitive races of the Games. It’s going to be one of the most, if not the most exciting event over there. You never know who is going to win. Who you expect to win, who you think is going to win, who has been running so great, sometimes it just doesn’t go their way. Then someone else will come up as a huge surprise with a huge time. The mystery of it makes the event that much more exciting.

Sally Pearson has been running really fast times this year and had looked great. A lot of people are picking her as a favorite and rightfully so. But in all honesty, I’ve been telling people — and I’m not just saying this because she’s my training partner and friend — I really do think Dawn Harper is going to get the gold. That’s my prediction. She has the complete race and a great ending. Plus, she’s been there before. She won the gold in 2008, so she’s now a veteran in this. She knows how to compete on a big stage like this.

There are plenty of other candidates to make a run at it though. I saw Kellie Wells a couple times when I was racing over in Europe and she is peaking right now. She’s definitely ready and has just as good a chance to get the gold as Sally or Dawn. Lolo is another one. She’s a veteran and she came through at trials to make the team. I didn’t see her when I was over competing in Europe, but I would not count her out either. You just never know when someone is going to peak. She’s definitely a candidate to get a medal. Tiffany Porter has looked very good this year as well. If she’s healthy and ready to go, you can’t count her out. She’s one of my friends so I’ll be rooting for her to get in there and get a medal.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
It’s really hard to train at this time of the year, when the Olympics are going on and that’s where you wanted to be and where you thought you would be.

You have to be mentally tough to go out there and train hard every day in the track, then go to the weight room and find the motivation to keep doing it. I jumped right back into it after Trials and went over to Europe for a few races, then came back to train. I didn’t want to lose any fitness or anything in my race. I want to finish out the season strong.

I only just recently watched the finals from Trials for the first time. For a long time I didn’t want to watch it at all. When I don’t do well in races, I don’t like to watch them over. Sometimes I will, just to learn from them, but that one I really didn’t want to experience again at first.

I finally watched it three weeks after trials and looked through it twice. After watching it, honestly I couldn’t see anything that I did wrong. I didn’t hit any hurdles. I got out good. It was just my ending. It was a poor ending. Going into the trials I felt really good. I felt that my training was right where it was supposed to be. The trials are always very intense.

I made a mistake at the start in my first round going over the first hurdle. I didn’t land stable, but I made it on to the next round and I was able to correct the mistake. Once that happened I realized how focused I had to be. It let me know that any little thing can happen out there. I made it through again in the second round and I really strongly felt that I would end up in the top three. When that didn’t happen, I’m sure the whole world can imagine my disappointment.

My strong point has always been the beginning of the race. Just naturally, I’ve always had a great start and I have the speed. I got out well in the final. I was focused. I wanted it bad. I was going really well and it just felt like I hit a wall or something. I wasn’t getting off the hurdle quickly and I could feel Dawn pulling away from me.

I still thought maybe I was in it, but unfortunately I wasn’t and I ended up getting a close fourth place. Sometimes looking back, I just wish I could’ve had one more strong hurdle. I wonder what I could’ve done differently. It was still my ending and that’s always been the problem for me so that was frustrating. Those last three to four hurdles are the weak part of my race. I’ve tried to work on it for years. Maybe I just haven’t used the right approach just yet. It’s one of the reasons I think Bobby Kersee is a good coach for me is to work on my endings. I know I’ll get better with him.

REASON TO BELIEVE
One thing I realized at Trials was that I wasn’t the only person leaving there disappointed. There were hundreds of athletes there that experienced that same disappointment as me. But at that time, you feel like it’s only you and in that moment it’s only you that matters.

After the race I had some down time. I cried for days. I just felt like someone had taken a piece of life out of me. To make it to the Olympics has always been something I wanted badly. I really thought that I had a good chance this time. I was healthy the whole year, I was running pretty well, so I thought I would get in there. And to be so close like that, just adds to the disappointment.

Coming off that race, I wasn’t really sure what the next step was for me. But I had a lot of time at the trials afterward because Shawn was there competing and it gave me some time to think before I went over to Europe. Staying there and watching Shawn helped me take my mind off my little mishap. I got to get excited about him going through his rounds and watch my teammates finish competing.

It motivated me. I want to be back where I was again and I know that I can do that because I’ve done it before. But I really have to believe that, because after years of not running as well as you think you can, doubt starts to creep in. You start to believe and feel that maybe that’s all you have.

I prayed about it a lot. I wanted to stay consistent with my faith and my prayers. While I was praying one day, I was reading some of my Buddhist writings that I brought with me, and this passage came up about changing your attitude and believing in yourself.

I realized that I didn’t want to just give up on myself. I had to really believe in myself for once. So I prayed on that. I wanted to really truly at the core of my heart believe in myself. Not just on the surface, but at the core of my being, just believe in me. I trained so hard this year and put in so much work, time, money and everything. I didn’t want to see it end like that when I had a whole summer left to race.

Having that time to think and regain my passion for the sport changed the way I was thinking. I reprogrammed and set new goals for myself, time-based goals. To win the Diamond League, to run a PR if possible, or something close to it. I took that mindset to Paris and turned my season around.

Sweet Swiss Victory

A rejuvenated Ginnie Crawford traveled over to Europe looking to put the past behind her. With her second win in 11 days, she went a long way toward doing that.

Ginnie posted her second best time of the season — 12.61 — to win the 100-meter hurdles at Spitzen Leichtathletik in Lucerne, Switzerland on Tuesday. She crossed nearly two tenths of a second ahead of olympian Kellie Wells, who finished third in 12.79.

The victory completed a whirlwind two weeks for Ginnie that saw her compete in France, England and Switzerland. In the process, she piled up two wins and topped her previous season’s best three times.

Those three times — 12.59 in Paris, 12.62 in London and 12.61 in Lucerne — are the three fastest times Ginnie has run since 2007. She’s also one of only five women to go sub-12.6 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles this year.

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Diamond League Dynamite

The Samsung Diamond League has been very kind to Ginnie Crawford this year.

One week after posting her best time of the year during a SDL meet in Paris, Ginnie nearly topped it in London at the Aviva London Grand Prix, where she posted the 15th best time in the world this year during prelims.

Ginnie overcame a slow start surged to the front to win her preliminary heat early Saturday, finishing in 12.62 seconds. The victory qualified Ginnie for Saturday night’s final.

Facing off against a pair of Olympians — Sally Pearson and Kellie Wells — in the final, Ginnie took third with a time of 12.74. She has now finished top three in each of her last three races, coming in under 12.9 in all of them. She’s won three Diamond Points over the last eight days and sits fifth in the Diamond Race with two races to go.

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