Since the London Olympics in 2012, I’ve been on the 4-year plan. Four more years to train and achieve everything else I wanted as a pro runner. Four more years to prepare for the next Olympics in Rio, and then I’d be done. After Rio I would no longer live the athlete life every single day. I would close this chapter of my life and possibly start a family. Maybe I could actually use the civil engineering degree I earned what seems like a lifetime ago. The timeline seemed so clear and obvious, so neatly planned and logical.
And so as I should have expected, since Rio there have been a LOT of questions. Family, friends, and even acquaintances - it seems like everyone wants to know: What am I doing now? Am I training? What are our plans? Is a Baby Sifuentes on the way? I accept most of the blame for such bold questioning - it’s my own fault for openly stating my “clear and obvious” plan to retire and move on after Rio.
Four years rushed by in the blink of an eye, and during that time I felt a pressure building inside me, like an important due date was approaching. “There’s still so much to do. I’m not done yet!” This self-imposed deadline played a part in a lot of stress I carried in the past couple years, but ultimately led me to let go of all the remaining goals on my “to do as a professional athlete” list. For that I am grateful, and although I still have moments of stress and anxiety, the peace and genuine enjoyment I get from training and racing now is greater than it’s ever been.
I was wrong. Sometimes life isn’t predictable and obvious. I’m definitely not retiring.
Why continue? There's no unfinished business - my “to do” list truly has been left behind. And while there’s no doubt in my mind that I can (and very likely will) improve and continue to run PBs, as I’ve said a thousand times, there are no guarantees.
I continue because I really love running. I’m good at it! And it’s my job! One reason I love it is because of the regular challenge to my character and motivation by pushing me outside my comfort zone. As long as I continue in the sport, there is constant uncertainty and there is always potential for public disappointment or failure. I literally lay it all on the line when I race, where at minimum the results are posted for anyone to see, and at the extreme my race is broadcast live around the world.
This does not fit the mold of my natural tendency to take the safest, most risk-adverse route. I like to protect myself from disappointment, and for a while, my underlying motivation for retirement was to put an end to my constant state of uncertainty. I love a sure thing. But staying comfortable doesn't lead to growth physically, mentally or spiritually. I believe I'm called to pour out my very best effort without knowing what will happen and without expecting anything in return.
Furthermore, in this sport of clear cut records and rankings, there is always something tempting me to elevate my own agenda for faster times, higher rankings, and lowering records. But there is no other way I'd rather practice putting God first than through this career. I have now experienced what it's like to truly feel free of my own desires, and in turn my appreciation of doing what I love every day is growing. Even still, it's hard to remain in that peace. To live with an undivided heart is a challenge that drives me to depend on Jesus every single day. I rely on His help to keep my desire for personal success from taking over. My goal is to maintain a simple ambition: give God everything and thank Him for the results, remembering that my purpose is not in accomplishment but in following Him and honouring Him in whatever I do.
So I can’t answer any more questions, and I don't have my future perfectly planned out. All I know is that based on the combination of my health, my love of this sport, and the value of all there is to learn from it, I suspect I'll be running for a very long time.