By Caroline Heaney
I’ve discussed in this blog before how challenging career transitions in sport can be. The letter below describes my own feelings about a recent career transition related decision I have made.
Dear 400m hurdles,
There’s no easy way to say this so I’m going to get straight to the point – I’m leaving you. We both know that things haven’t been right for while – injuries, a weary body and life in general have put pay to that.
I’m not an international athlete; I have a job and a life outside of athletics, yet being an athlete is a very important part of my identity and has been for as long as I can remember. After more than 20 years in the sport why wouldn’t it? The sport has given me so much – challenge, friends, confidence, fitness, strength – the list is endless.
Over the last few years, as my performance has deteriorated as a result of injury and ageing, I have began to think about retirement and I always knew it would be hard, but I have been completely overwhelmed by the emotion I feel after having made a decision today. That decision wasn’t even to retire, not just yet anyway, no – today I made a decision to give up the 400m hurdles and move onto a new challenge – the 800m. My body just can’t cope with training for the hurdles anymore and nor can my mind – mentally it’s too hard to go into races and run 5, 6 or even 7 seconds slower than my best.
As I cry myself to sleep I’m trying to understand why I feel so emotional about this – so sad, and it’s because it’s been all about you, the 400m hurdles. You’ve been the event where I’ve made my mark, the event that has challenged me and the event I love. Nothing will replace you. Flat running just won’t be the same.
I know this is the right decision, even though I still feel like we have unfinished business. I know that in different circumstances I probably could have run faster, but both sadly and proudly I will be signing off at 63.95 seconds.
I will never forget you and the time we’ve had together and whenever I see you there will be a feeling of sadness in my heart and a feeling of ‘I wish’, but I know this is the right thing for both of us.
I know I can’t leave you without just one final fling and in the absence of any races I will probably have one last hurdles session with you this week.
Goodbye… and thank you for everything you’ve given me.
19th August 2013