US distance runner Emily Infeld talks about her journey to this moment of pure elation after earning a shock 10,000m bronze at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
“This image makes me smile. Without doubt it is the biggest moment of my career and a defining moment for me in the sport.
"I’d spent much of 2013 and 2014 injured and frustrated. After a period struggling with chronic fatigue in early 2013, in the fall of that year I picked up a stress fracture of the sacrum (the large triangle-shaped bone at the base of the spine) and spent six months out of the sport. Some 13 months later I suffered another stress fracture of the sacrum and spent a further 10 weeks on the sidelines. This period prompted a lot of soul-searching.
"I had graduated from college in 2012 and I felt my professional career had, up until this point, not amounted to much. Was this a sign that I should perhaps do something else with my life? However, I could not give up. I still felt I had a lot more talent to showcase.
“In 2015 I hoped to qualify for the US team for the World Championships and felt my best chance was in the 5000m. But in Stanford in May my coach, Jerry Schumacher, decided to throw me in my first ever 10,000m. That day I managed to run a time of 31:38.71 with Jerry saying: 'How did you do that? I didn’t know you were in that kind of shape. I think we’ve found a new event.'
"At the US Champs I proved it was no fluke by finishing third in the 10,000m – just behind my training partner Shalane Flanagan – to qualify for the team for Beijing.
“The whole experience – even from the pre-camp in Japan – was amazing. Hanging out with the US team was something special and then competing inside the Bird’s Nest Stadium was unforgettable. I’d never raced in a stadium quite like it. I was in awe and felt like a rock star.
“To be honest, I held fairly realistic expectations that I could finish top 10. I was aware that Kara Goucher at the 2007 World Championships and Shalane (Flanagan) at the 2008 Olympic were the only other US medallists in the women’s 10,000m (at global championships) and as they were my idols growing up I thought a medal was out of reach.
“As the race unfolded, however, we went through 5000 metres in quite a sedate pace. It became more of a sit-and-kick race, which suited me as I’m from more of a 1500m background. With three laps to go, I felt a slight increase in speed but it was nothing more than that and I went through the bell feeling strong in sixth, believing at that point that I could finish top five.
"With 200 metres remaining, I thought I could finish fourth. And then down the home straight with Molly (Huddle her US teammate ahead of her) I thought, 'oh my God, I can pass Molly'. I tried to go to her outside but Molly kind of veered out and I cut back in and just tried to finish as fast as I could.
“When confirmation arrived that I had bronze (by a margin of 0.09 from Huddle in 31:43.49 and behind gold medallist Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya) I was so ecstatic, I just collapsed into Shalane’s arms. It was obvious Molly was heartbroken in fourth and I was sad too for her. She is someone I look up to and has accomplished so much in the sport. I felt I had maybe nabbed the medal from her, which was so tough.
“For me, it was a big moment because it proved I can achieve great results and that all my hard work paid off. This picture always makes me super-motivated and reminds me of why I love track and field.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF