American Jennifer Simpson competed in one of the all-time great 1500-metre races to happen in a global championships event and earned a silver medal for her efforts. It was a well-executed race by the 30-year-old who was up against some very strong competition including South Africa’s Caster Semenya, who has reigned supreme in the 800-metre event as well as Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, who won silver during the 2015 world championships.
Describing the race to Athletics Illustrated she said, “I felt like I had a good start which really set the tone for my individual effort. I wanted to stay near the front and be ready in case the race got going quickly early. I remember Siffan’s strong move to the front and being prepared for everyone around me to react to her charge. I just kept my eyes up and wanted to be careful to not be caught by surprise by anything.”
Semenya and Kipyegon were not the only stars in the field; there was also Scotland’s Laura Muir who has been dominant on the track. In 2016 she ran 3:55.22, only 11 women have ever run faster than her, all-time. Only Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia has run faster than her since the turn of the century. She finished fourth, one position up from her 2015 world’s performance.
Simpson perhaps was the best prepared of the lot.
“On the final 300m I knew I had to run harder than I have all year but watching the people in front of me, I thought they might be going a little too hard. They were really racing each other when we still had a bend and a stretch left to go. So I tried to stay close while keeping another gear for the race to home. I’m proud of how I timed it. I think I got the most out of myself over that last lap.”
Asked about her training Simpson said, “My coaches are always learning and evolving. I appreciate that we don’t just follow the same workout calendar year after year. We tried some subtle changes but nothing huge. I still ran 80 miles a week, long runs, track sessions, and lifting twice a week. Probably the biggest difference was just having the Olympics behind me. There’s an emotional toll that comes with a year of anticipating the Olympic Games and some letdown afterward. That was more important to navigate than strictly training.”
She won bronze in Rio, in a tactical race where she finished in 4:10.53. In London, one could throw a blanket over the medallist as they finished in 4:02.59, 4:02.76 and 4:02.90, respectively. Simpson is a decorated athlete having also won gold in Daegu 2011 and silver in Moscow 2013. She owns a best of 3:57.22.
Preparation, experience, and peaking are the key for a round of championship races where anything can and usually does happen. It also helps, as any sports psychologist will suggest, to firmly believe in one’s own self.
Asked about how she felt leading up to the meet she said, “Before the meet, I felt confident about my experience, fitness, and willingness to run hard in every round. I didn’t think at all about the final or medals; I focussed on what it takes to run 3 x 1500m over four days. Getting to the final is always my major focus. When we arrived in London and as the meet got going my confidence grew from there. By the day of the final, I truly believed it was going to be a great day of racing for me.”