One of the many things that I admire about Stuart Weir is that he appreciates the hard work that the athletes we write about do, day in and day out. In this tribute to Chanelle Price, who recently retired, he speaks about her highlights.
This is the 274th article that Stuart Weir has written for RunBlogRun this year, 2021. He is taking a couple of weeks off from podcasts and writing to enjoy the holidays with his family. Thanks, Stuart for giving us insights to athletes all over the world!
Chanelle Price, 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, photo by Kevin Morris
Chanelle Price – career highlights
Chanelle Price ran 2:02.38 to finish seventh in the 2007 US Championships, still short of her 17th birthday. She was sixth in Pre the following year in 2:01.61, again a remarkable time for a 17 year-old. Unfortunately, she was initially unable to build on these early successes.
Everything changed in 2014 when she was selected for the US team for the World Indoors in Sopot, Poland. She qualified for the final. I remember talking to her before the race. She told me that as she was a comfortable front-runner, she was planning to take the lead and that anyone who was going to beat her would have to get past her. She did take the lead and no-one caught her! “That’s just my personality”, she explained. “I was going to leave it all out there so that at worst I could look back and think ‘OK you beat me but I left it all out there’. I don’t like playing around with a slow first lap, my attitude is ‘we’re going to run today!’ I was able to look back with no regrets. They did race and Chanelle won!
Looking back now to that race she says: “Sopot was a life changer. I had been struggling for a few years to secure a contract but when I won the World Indoors, it changed my life I was able to sign with Nike. I was able to focus solely on running instead of having to work multiple jobs to support the dream. That race is still my favorite career memory. The Chanelle who showed up in Sopot was running happy and running free and it made a difference. There is no doubt in my mind that that switch in mentality [see previous article] helped me become World Indoor champion”.
Chanelle took her 2014 form into 2015, running under 2 minutes five times and finished up being ranked top 10 in the world.The big disappointment was finishing fifth in the US Champs and not making the US team for the World Championships, knowing that if she had made it she was well-capable of reaching the final. She still saw it as a good year: “I was proud of my consistency that year, and the number of times I went under 2 minutes.2015 was another of the highlights of my career”.
Then the wheels came off as she suffered a series of injuries and illnesses. “I competed in 2016 in the Olympic trials and then it was five years until I was in the US championships again. It just seemed like one piece of bad luck after another – with my health and with my foot. It was hard but I kept fighting”.
She has competed for USA three times in the World Relays 4 by 800 event, winning each time: “It was so much fun because those are the American women I am usually competing against. We were always having so much fun so I don’t think I got as nervous as usual. Those were the most fun meets that I’ve never been to. In the Bahamas they seem to try to make it like one big party for us. It almost felt like a vacation. When I look back on the World Relays I definitely smile because we had an incredible time and the Bahamas did an amazing job. It was cool to be able to be on the team every year. It was an amazing experience”
In 2015 Genzebe Dibaba wanted to go for the World Record in the Monaco Diamond League. Chanelle’s agent persuaded the meet director that Chanelle would be the ideal pacemaker because, in her own words, “I’m a frontrunner and am therefore comfortable being at the front. I’m pretty good at splits and they needed a pretty fast 800 runner because Dibaba was looking for 2:03”. Dibaba ran 3:50 and broke the record. As a result, athletes and meet directors were saying “we want Chanelle to pace all the races”. She was often seen in that role.
Having failed to make the US team for the Tokyo Olympics, Chanelle increasingly felt that 2021 was going to be her last season. She wanted to finish well. Having not been under 2 minutes since 2015, she did it six times in 2021. Her assessment of the year is: “It was an incredible year, and one that I am proud of. It’s the way I wanted to finish. I wanted to be able to say that I was walking away on my terms, after running the best I ever had. I think so many athletes retire when their contract is up or something but I am leaving on my terms. It feels really good”
Her last race was in Bellinzona, Switzerland and she came second in 1:59.75. Again it was just kind of performance with which she wanted to finish: “I was second behind Natoya Goule. She is a fantastic person and we were hanging out together a few days before the race. I remember telling her that this was probably going to be my last race ever. And she told me to leave it all out there. I was pretty tired to that stage of the season. I think that when you run a big PR your body tends to shut down on you. So while I was ready to retire, I did want to break 2 minutes one last time. I gave the race everything and I shed some tears afterwards. I watched the remainder of the meet knowing it was probably my last professional meet. It was an emotional time but it was fun to be with Goule because she has such an amazing personality”.
Chanelle Price has every reason to be proud of what she has achieved. There are many positives about being American.A big challenge is the difficulty in making a championship team.