IAAF Diamond League 200m champion Noah Lyles reflects on the rollercoaster ride he experienced during the 2017 campaign.
To be honest, my 2017 season was more of a high-low-high.
I had enjoyed a great winter’s training. I had started to lift proper weights for the first time and I was completing my running sessions at a faster pace. Where previously I’d be running 300m reps in about 36 seconds, I was now knocking them off at 34 or 35 seconds. My coach (Lance Brauman) encouraged me to fully commit. I made that psychology shift and ran the sessions more aggressively.
I felt at a new high during training and I was ready to tackle the world.
I opened up during the indoor season where I was unbeaten over 300m and set a world best time (in 31.87) to take the US Championships. In only my second outdoor 200m race I won the Shanghai Diamond League in 19.90 – the first time I had ever dipped below 20 seconds. It was a huge moment for me as it was something I had planned to run since my final year at high school.
Running a sub-20-second time gave me extra confidence. I knew I had become part of an elite club. To be one of the lucky few to break that barrier moved me from good to great.
Shanghai was a great high, but it was also the beginning of a big low.
About 15-20 metres into the race, I felt something in my hamstring, which at the time I thought was cramp. I completed the race but as the night progressed, it worsened. Then, after flying back to Germany, doctors confirmed I had a two-centimetre hamstring tear on my right leg.
My first thought was, ‘how soon can I be back competing?’ I had big plans for the 2017 season. We completed the rehab and for four weeks I started to feel better, but close to the US Championships I started to feel my muscle could not handle block starts. I competed in Sacramento and won my first-round heat in 20.54, but I finished the race in a decent amount of pain.
I did all I could to loosen up the body with the help of a massage therapist but I decided there was no point pushing my body through the pain and I withdrew from the semi-final. I knew I had up to two rounds to run and it made no sense to run. I made a decision to back off, to ensure the injury was completely healed and that I would start competing again at the end of the season.
I was very hurt by what happened and I was in tears that I was unable to run. But back in the hotel where my mother, brother and uncle were to support me, I made a decision that night to refocus. We agreed it wasn’t meant to be. There is a better plan out there and I have many more years ahead of me.
I returned to the US, carried out the rehab and then resumed training. My first competition back was the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels and I felt pretty confident. I thrive off the big moments and the great competitions.
I was drawn in the outside lane that day and I made a good start. About 20 metres from the finish, I felt like someone was on my left-hand side. Then with five metres to go, I felt like I needed to lean.
After the race, everyone was high-fiving each other and it looked like nobody knew what was going on. But when it was confirmed I had won the race (in 20.00 to defeat compatriot Ameer Webb by 0.01) I thought this was the moment I had prepared for all year.
Looking back, 2017 was probably one of the best transition seasons to being a professional I could have experienced. I had a great high with a world best and then a sub-20 second time. I had adjusted to a new training regime, picked up an injury, but figured out what my body needed to come back. I discovered that my base training was strong enough to quickly bounce back from such an injury and that I was still strong enough to win the Diamond trophy.
Steve Landells for the IAAF