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Fight and Flight

Fight and

English Gardner

JULY 4, 2016

Four years after a crushing off-podium finish at the national trials, the now 24-year-old 100-meter sprinter details the volatile emotions that fuel her summer ambitions.

A lot of times my jitters get the best of me; I throw-up before my events at least four times. I have a really hard time controlling my adrenalin. If I even talk about an upcoming competition, my heart races, my hands sweat. I get the jitters. A lot of times, I’ll get numbness in my hands and in my feet, like that fight or flight kind of feeling. On the line I slap my legs not to scare my competitors, but because I can’t feel them. I try to stay as far away from competition mode as possible because once I’m there, I need my adrenalin; I need my emotions. I need my nerves to be the runner that I need to be.

My nerves come from not wanting to disappoint myself. They come from an internal push. I know what I’m capable of and I know in my event anything can go wrong. If I’m not executing the way I can I won’t get the outcomes that I need, and that is nerve-wracking. It can be that I didn’t push hard enough out of the blocks or I missed an angle by three degrees.

Year after year, I’ve watched people take what I felt like I deserved. I watched three women stand on the podium at the 2012 national trials. Everything that I ever worked for slipped right through my hands in 10 seconds. So this year I’m not going to stop until I get my job done. I’ve put all the tears that I cried in my tank, and I never want to feel that way again.

Everything that I do has purpose. The days where I’m tired, the days where I feel like I can’t go on, those moments are the moments that I need to hone in the most. I wake up knowing that nothing is going to be given to me. This year I’m not waiting for the moment to be handed to me. I’m taking it — that’s the difference. I’m not just taking it at the national trials. I’m not just taking it this summer. I’m taking it every morning when I’m putting on my practice gear. I’m taking it when I’m lacing up my shoes, when I’m doing every intricate movement in my weightlifting program and when I’m on the track perfecting my craft.

“I'm not waiting for the moment to be handed to me. I'm taking it.”

It’s one thing to have a million and three cells in your body that are perfectly made to do what you need to do. But then you have that other part of you: the edge that gets you to the point where you need to go. I had to be second in order to learn how to be first. When I lose, I know exactly what I have to do to get to first place. All those losses that I took before are going to prepare me for this win that I’m about to get.

I looked at my coach dead in the eye the other day and I said: “Coach, your job is to set the table. I need you to put the forks down, the cups, the plates, the spoons, the knives and the napkins. Because when I sit down at the table, I promise you I’m going to eat and I’m going to eat everything. I’m not going to leave anything for anybody else. You just got to get me a seat at the table. I will take care of everything else.”

Learn how to train like English and discover more about our athletes’ journeys — and how they can inspire your own — at