The experience of competing on the world stage in London, England for the first time has significantly fuelled Alycia Butterworth’s drive to become the best in the 3000m steeplechase in Canada.
The ultimate target for the former Oceanside Track and Field Club athlete is to represent Canada at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
That’s just over two years away, and Butterworth knows now what she has to do to make the Canadian team.
What she has learned in the last month or so, Butterworth said, will greatly assist her in building up her physical and mental strength to make it to the Olympics, which is considered to be the pinnacle of sporting achievement.
Initially, Butterworth didn’t make the Canadian team for the World Track and Field Championships last month. At the Canadian Championships, Butterworth finished a couple of seconds short of the world qualifying mark, which she said was extremely “disappointing” for her.
“It was tough pill to swallow because I realized I gave up my chance to go to worlds,” Butterworth recalled.
Despite running against three other athletes, who were also close to achieving the world qualifying time for the 3,000m steeplechase, she found the pace too slow to her liking.
“It was a really slow first lap and I couldn’t continue the pace if I wanted to meet the qualifying time. So I took the lead,” said Butterworth, who eventually ran out of gas in the last 600m and missed her goals by two seconds.
“I am not used to leading races and I am certainly not used to leading them the entire time. I was so close and when it’s that close, you start to second-guess yourself… ‘what if I’d done this; what if I‘d done that?’”
Although she feels disappointed for missing a golden opportunity, that melancholy feeling was quickly replaced by extreme joy a couple of weeks later when Athletics Canada invited her to join Team Canada to the world championships.
“Athletics Canada told me that the IAAF has extended them some extra positions and it was a huge surprise,” said Butterworth. “My dreams were coming true. Everything I work towards is finally coming true.”
Butterworth went on to compete at the world championships. She was hoping to improve her personal best but during her heat, she had to endure another unusually slow-paced race.
“It was unreasonably slow,” said Butterworth. “It was kind of something you couldn’t predict ‘cause I don’t know of any steeplechase heat at a world championships has ever gone that slow, to be honest. It was kinda unbelievable. Every lap you’re thinking someone’s gonna pick up. But the leaders at the front were really controlling the pace and every time someone tried to pass them to get a faster pace, they would speed up and formed a wall to block them out. Then slowed back down. It was kinda crazy. It didn’t really get going until about 600m which is really late to start kicking at that point.”
Butterworth finished in 8th place in her heat out 13 runners in 9:51.50, well below her personal best time of 9:41.26. Looking back at her performance, Butterworth has learned significantly more about her weaknesses and what she needs to focus on.
“I have to figure out how to improve my closing speed and to be ready to run whatever race that ends up being the next time around,” said Butterworth. “They’re hitting times that I am not able to hit right now.”
Butterworth has always been motivated to train but after being exposed to the world stage, her hunger to do better has doubled.
“Having competed at the worlds have really lit up the fire in me,” said Butterworth. “I don’t want it to be my last time in the world stage. I am going to keep on putting in the work so I can get there at future world championships and hopefully the Olympics.”
Butterworth has taken a couple of weeks off at the end of the track season. She is now starting to train again.
“It’s a slow build up just to make sure my body has fully recovered,” said Butterworth, who in a month or two plans to ramp up her training.
“I will be training mostly and not racing very much. I plan to put in the miles, put in the work and get fit.”