Training for the Last Run
A personal account by a participant in the ACMI Digital Storytelling Workshop "Journeys with Breast Cancer" created in association with Breast Cancer Network Australia.
The 400 meters final, I must take charge. I can’t be put off by the crowds or get too excited. I can run the race to win or I can give it away.
As I leave my coach Ron Dewhurst and check in, I’m apprehensive but confident. My training program over the last ten days has been different, a new direction. I need to take Gold, the stakes are high. It is the Commonwealth Games, Brisbane, 1982 and I am running the last race of my athletic career.
From the moment I decide to retire, Ron and I train for much more than a 400 meter sprint. We prepare me for a new beginning, a life without sport. I’ve enjoyed the heady heights as a young athlete, been plagued by injuries, beaten to Gold by a drug cheat in the Munich Olympics, disqualified for breaking twice at the Montreal Games and then my withdrawal for personal reasons from the boycott ravaged ‘80 Olympics. I was a sprinter who never quite got her timing right, but this timing was perfect, the Commonwealth Games on my own turf seemed the ideal stage for retirement.
I left the Australian public with the memory of Gold. Although you leave the past behind, it always stays with you. It wasn’t easy making such an enormous transition. A redirection into horticulture and a move to Queensland. Family, friends, partner and my beloved pets all made it possible.
My breast cancer diagnosis in ‘96 did see me race again, this time it was a race to survive. Coming to terms with my fear and confusion, being forced to face my own mortality while my mum was dying of lung cancer, was tumultuous. I believe my greatest achievement is my ability to keep coming back and with determination I fought the battle and again a few years later when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With the Commonwealth Games again staged on home soil, it gives me a chance to reflect. I see the parallels between my past and present. Life is still a contest for me but his time I fight to make life better for cancer sufferers.