The Olympics are a huge event and a coming together of countries and athletes from all over the world in solidarity and to participate in the games. The amount of countries and the number of different events and combination of events on offer is way beyond keeping track of. This time around I had a few people I knew in the village and involved with the games both as athletes and coaches in a couple of different events, and that made the village part a greater experience. It was lovely to see a familiar face in the village and even organise a little group run. However, nothing compares to the enormity of a home games.
The expense of the games is beyond belief. It is weird sitting on a bus going past favela after favela which really isn't that far a step from shanty towns - one room buildings made with bricks, no windows and bits of corrugated iron roofing. Then on the horizon you suddenly see this amazing space age looking Olympic facilities towering above all else. The hope is there’s permanent benefit for locals from sport facilities and infrastructure, for example the new underground line.
Despite media noise to the contrary, I did not see one mosquito. We got lucky and the weather turned cold and wet for a couple of weeks. Apparently Zika is not just an issue for unborn babies, but even adults with minimal symptoms may have part of the virus left dormant in the brain and it is currently unknown if it can be switched on again.
The Brazilians I met went out of their way to be part of the Olympic experience and they liked to learn more about other countries and were passionate and friendly people. The majority did not speak English and despite that they were motivated to try to communicate. The village was picturesque, were a few minor ongoing new build repairs, gas leaks, plumbing, collapsing bits, hyperactive fire alarms etc and we did have a bit of petty theft, including the Chef the Missions iPad, but nothing major by the time I arrived.
Race morning started with a 1-hour bus ride out to the Sambadrome where the start and finish were to be. Although not the athletics stadium it was nice to be starting and finishing at such an iconic landmark, it's where the huge carnival takes place every march. The marathon it self was on a, for the most part, flat road out by the sea front. Starting at 9:30 meant majority of runners were running at midday in 27 degree heat which resulted in some athletes not being able to finish - athletes that have given everything to get there - physically, financially, bit of a shame start times can't be more conducive for the athletes, seems to be a common situation at major champs.
Been bit of a year of disillusionment for athletics, and how it is governed, with reports of anti-doping and corruption. Hard to trust particularly spectacular performances. However, was pleased to see there are still plenty of inspiring people at the Games.
Was my race the greatest race I've ever done? No. Was it my best performance? No. Was it the smoothest running organised event I've ever been too? No - it was chaotic including 5 minutes before the start I was pulled aside and told I had to change bibs, nothing followed the published protocol, and in the end I didn’t actually get to do up my left shoe at all and ran the full marathon with a totally loose shoe. I stopped at about the 5K marker to try and do something about it but my hands were too flustered to function. I have to take responsibility for it, it was my shoe and my race and I was disappointed after many set backs in the previous four years, it would be something so silly and last minute that would derail my race. Realistically it cost me at least a minute or two, which over a marathon isn't a disaster, however, in such a classy field 1-2 minutes is a lot of positions. Plenty of far better runners than I had a much rougher day out there.
It was a nice course and the weather was really good for spectators - the first championship marathon I have done not in pouring rain. I was grateful that we got sent round the course in the opposite direction from what had been indicated on all the pre race maps, as it meant my right foot was on the inside and could use it for cornering. I was able to pick it up in the last 2K when a lady who had sat on my tail for the last 15-20K started to make a move. I believe she was one of only 3 people to gain a PB at the event and a national record for Hong Kong - she ran a smart race.
The week following the race, I wasn’t able to walk much as had injured foot in the race due to the shoe situation, however I went to Copacabana beach and watched the triathlon and saw the Brownlee brothers total domination, and went to the stadium nearly every night to watch the athletics. There were some great performances but from a Danish perspective Sara Slot Petersen winning silver medal and being the first medal at the Olympics in athletics for a Danish woman since 1948 was a historic moment.
Sunday it was the men’s marathon before on to the closing ceremony. This time organisation was a lot smoother even the weather cooperated. Once back in the village I went to random team parties, starting with the Danish one, felt a bit late for that as the Danes had won the handball late that afternoon and so many didn’t go to the closing ceremony and had been celebrating since 5pm. The Team doctor was pretty cool so at 2.30 am, cocktails in hand, we popped upstairs to have a quick ultrasound on my unhappy foot. There after I picked up a few more cocktails and then set off with random people from different teams to different parties. The last one still going was the German teams, which I left at 5.30am.
Right now I’m having a couple of days out just enjoying the freedom that comes at the end of such a long, all encompassing, project. Plus the real world admin, bills etc. In some ways I was served up lessons over the last 3-4 years and the Olympics were like the graduation ceremony. In many ways it has been a very selfish and isolated pursuit, I definitely learnt that life and projects are a lot more meaningful and enjoyable when shared and when we collaboratively work together to be better. I also have a greater appreciation for how special the London Olympics as a home games were and I enjoyed Rio for very different reasons. It was a positive experience because of the people on the journey. I am grateful for having had the opportunity, I don't really think of the Games in terms of performance on the day, I think about it in terms of it being a culmination of everything that has gone into being there, day in and day out, through many days where only the commitment to the project and determination to see it through were key reasons to keep going.
So what’s next? Tokyo? The Olympics are quite addictive ...you know that it's something special as the sun sets on one it raises on the build up to the next games.
I haven't rule it out. However, I love sport, travel and helping others, so I am excited to team up with Performance Edge to deliver running and triathlon camps, which are athlete focused and customized. Check us out: http://www.performance-edge.me