Olympic 400m hurdles champion Dalilah Muhammad is now firmly established among the world’s elite in her event. Yet the US hurdler fondly recalls a pivotal race from four years ago, which helped pave the way for her future success.
“At the 2012 Olympic Trials I had finished sixth in my 400m hurdles heat. It was in the fall of that year when I decided to join the same training group as Lashinda Demus (the 2011 world 400m hurdles champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist) to be coached by her mum, Yolanda.
“I found training with that group extremely difficult at first. My body had never experienced such demanding training. I had never worked as hard in my life and I was incapable of completing workouts. I dug in and tried to do better in an effort to overcome the difficulties.
“I remember I gradually started to improve and I remember one workout, which ended with a 200m. For the first time, I was able to hang with Lashinda down the straight. It was the first time I was within striking distance of her and I remember her saying, ‘wow, you are getting better’.
“In April 2013, I opened my 400m hurdles season at the Pasadena Games in California. I went into the race excited for the season ahead but with no real expectation of how I would perform.
“That day I ran 55.97 and dipped below my PB of 56.04. It was such a defining moment in my career. It felt so easy, like I wasn’t even trying. But I also made mistakes in that race – like chopping badly at hurdle seven – which encouraged me to believe I could run so much faster in the future and I had so much more potential to give.
“In my next race, I improved by just over a second, running 54.94 in Irvine, and then went on to set PBs in Shanghai (54.74) and Turin (54.66) – four PBs in four races. By the end of that year, I had lowered my lifetime best to 53.83 when winning the US title and later took the silver medal at the World Championships.
“Yet for all that success throughout that season, it was the race in Pasadena when I first felt I had truly arrived.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF