Shelby Houlihan in action at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)
US middle-distance runner Shelby Houlihan has enjoyed a breakout season, triumphing on the IAAF Diamond League circuit over 1500m and breaking the North American 5000m record. Here the 25-year-old talks in detail of her unequivocal passion for what she does.
“I grew up around running from a very young age. My mom (Connie Prince Houlihan) was a professional marathon runner for Asics and some of my earliest memories were travelling in the car with gran handing water to mom on training runs. I watched my mom work hard and that gave me the drive and inspiration to follow in her footsteps.
“I started running cross country at the age of five and from that point, I always wanted to run at the Olympics Games. I always saw it as an attainable goal, I guess I watched by mom run and thought, why not?
“I was born with a hereditary blood disease, which meant I suffered anaemia. I remember being constantly tired at elementary and needing snacks to get through the day. I also grew up needing regular blood transfusions.
“Everything changed at the age of eight when I had my spleen and gall bladder removed. This allowed me to retain red blood cells and from that point on it changed everything. I suddenly had a lot more energy and on the back of this I started winning races.
“I am very lucky in that I have my mom in my corner. As a former athlete, she is the first person I call after ever race and she is the main person I look to for advice.
“In the past I’ve raced with a lack of confidence and hanged back in races, yet mom has definitely called me out on that a few times and she said sometimes you just have to ‘put yourself in the mix’. It is something I’ve worked hard on and it has finally started to click.
“Why do I run? Most simply put, when I’m running I love that feeling on days when everything feels effortless. On days like this, I can’t keep the smile from my face. It puts me in a good mood and reminds me how lucky I am to be a professional runner.
“Running is without doubt something that I love, and I sometimes think people underestimate the power of love. I don’t love running because I am good at it, I’m good at running because I love it. It is something that brings me joy because I am passionate about it.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF