More Than a Runner - by Chanelle Price, 2014 World Indoor 800m Champion
Track and field became a huge part of my life when I was 13 years old. It was then I began training with one of the best club teams in the country, the United Stars. This team meant BUSINESS. I can recall crying after my first practice because it was so hard. I told my mom, “That was like boot- camp! I’m never going back there!” Needless to say, she wasn’t having it.
When I first joined the United Stars, I definitely was not the best on the team, but my worth ethic was on another level and this gained the coach’s attention. Little by little, he started paying more and more attention to me because he could see how bad I wanted it. The more attention I got from him, the harder I worked. And the harder I worked, the better I got.
Soon, I became his superstar. My success on the track made me very happy, and it seemed to make him even happier! Winning was EVERYTHING to the both of us. My coach set very, very high standards for me, and since he believed I could achieve them, I believed I could as well!
Nevertheless, when I fell short of those standards, both in practice and at competitions, I was extremely hard on myself. I felt like a failure, like I let my coach down. An example of this was at the high school state meet my senior year. I ran 2:02 in the 800m, the fastest time ever run by a high school girl at a state track and field competition. You’d think I’d be ecstatic, right?! Nope. I was angry. I was mad at myself for not running faster, for not breaking two minutes.
I carried this same type of attitude with me into college. I had big expectations and put a lot of pressure on myself to fulfill them. My college coach believed in me and wanted me to run to my full potential, but he hated how hard I was on myself. He took A LOT of time to get to know me outside of track. He was really big on getting me to understand that I was more than a runner.
Unfortunately, I didn’t buy into it. You see, from ages 13 to 17, I had developed this mindset of “track is life.” My entire identity became warped into “Chanelle Price The Track Star.” My confidence and self-worth stemmed from how I performed on the track. So, despite my college coach’s efforts to help me identify as “more than a runner,” track was my EVERYTHING.
Having track as my everything during my college years was a problem because after a loss, or a bad practice, or during an injury, I would get really, really down. I would separate myself from the team and just be in a sad, negative mood.
What I appreciated about my coach is that he was there for me every single time I had one of those low moments. He never yelled or got angry at me. He was just there to comfort me and pull me out of my slump. He was so patient and caring. I don’t think many other college coaches would’ve taken the time to nurture me like he did.
Even though I never reached my full potential in college, my coach never made me feel guilty about this. He was more concerned with getting me to understand that at end of the day, there’s so much more to life than sports. During one of my lowest moments, I can remember him looking me in my eyes and saying, “Chanelle, no matter what you choose to do in life, I know you’re going to be great at it.”
After college I decided to continue training under my college coach, and at age 22, I finally started to buy into his concept of me being “more than a runner.” I started to tell myself that all I had to do was use my God-given talent to the best of my ability, that I was not defined by my wins or losses. I took the pressure off of myself and started to have fun with running again.
This perspective shift really helped with my performance on the track. It was like a 100-pound weight was lifted off my shoulders. I ran free, and I ran well! In 2014, at age 23, I won the 2014 Indoor World Championships, becoming the first and only American woman to win an 800m gold medal in an indoor or outdoor World Championships.
It’s been nearly seven years since I won that title, and though I’ve continued running, my journey has been full of many highs and many lows. I know for sure I wouldn’t have been able to persevere from the lows if I never would’ve learned who I was outside of “Chanelle Price The Track Star.”
Overall, I believe it’s extremely important for coaches to view their athletes as people first and athletes second. We are more than people who run fast or throw a ball far or jump high or shoot well. We are human beings. It’s important for us to know our coaches care about us beyond what we can do for them in our sport.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with coaches wanting to win and encouraging their athletes to want to win. We all want to win! However, coaches need to help their athletes realize their value is not determined by their wins and losses. In my experience, I performed much better when I understood this!
I also think it’s important for athletes (perhaps more-so at the professional level) to have a say in their training plan. I’ve had two coaches since my college coach, one from 2016-2019 and the other from 2019-present. Both asked me what I believe works for me and allowed me to have a say in my program. This type of approach to coaching allows the athlete to feel included and important, and for me personally, it has forced me to take more responsibility for what I do on a day to day basis.
At the end of the day, coaches have a very difficult task. They are responsible for helping their athletes get the most out of themselves in their respective sports. However, a part of “helping their athletes get the most out of themselves” should be taking the time to get to know their athletes and teaching them how to establish an identity outside of their sport. Because, at the end of the day, we aren’t athletes forever.
Chanelle Price is an American middle distance runner from Easton, Pennsylvania. In 2014, she won the Indoor World Championships 800m, becoming the only American woman to win a gold medal in a world championship 800m. Chanelle is a 3-time World Relays gold medalist in the 4x800m, and a 7-time Penn Relays Champion. Chanelle graduated from The University of Tennessee in 2012 as a 9-time All-American, and shortly after graduation she won the 2012 NACAC U23 Championships in the 800m. Chanelle had an outstanding high school career. Her senior year she earned the title as the 2008 Gatorade Player Of The Year.
Chanelle’s faith plays a major role in her life, and she credits it for helping her see herself as more than a runner. Chanelle is an ambassador for St. Luke’s University Health Network, using her social media platforms to give a glimpse of what it takes to be an elite athlete and inspiring her followers to live a healthy lifestyle as well. In her spare time, Chanelle enjoys reading and writing, watching TV shows, and spending time with her friends and family.