Former Haute Volée javelin thrower Bethany Drake had big dreams for this year, but 2020 didn't unfold how any of us expected. As she grappled with what this meant for her javelin career she realized her heart was telling her what her mind wasn’t quite ready to admit. It was time to call a close to her javelin career.
The first part of life is laid out so clearly, you progress from one thing to the next with a predetermined timeline. And then all of a sudden, it’s not.
When I decided to compete in track & field in college, I knew that I had four years of eligibility. Four years to make the most of my experience and see what I could accomplish. Contrast that with when I decided to throw javelin post-collegiately, I knew that I had…however long my body stayed healthy? However long I wanted to keep going? There was no set timeline and no set image of what a finished or successful career would look like.
I told myself that I would commit to training through 2020— I wanted to make it to the US Olympic Trials for a second time. I wanted to make finals. I wanted to dream big, work hard, and let God determine the rest. I wanted to see what my potential was. I remember thinking at 23, "If I keep training for the next three years, I’ll be 26. That’s not that old (hah!). That’s a good amount of time". The Olympics felt like a good bookend, a natural cycle to train through, and a solid reach dream.
I had big dreams for this year. I cut down from full-time to part-time teaching in order to dedicate more time to training. I put everything else in life on hold to give javelin everything I had. I thought this would be my last year of javelin and the Olympic Trials would be the culminating event of the last three years of dedication. I would have the chance to give it my all, to make sacrifices and see payoffs. I would leave the sport with a sense of satisfaction, peace, and completion or be spurred to continue on.
But 2020 has not unfolded as I thought it would, or as any of us thought it would. The Olympic Trials and Olympics being postponed to 2021 was a huge unforeseen catch.
I’ve had to grapple with what that means for my javelin dreams and my career. As I began to weigh this decision, I reached out to a couple of friends to see how their training was going in the midst of pandemic/quarantine life…
The first responded, “I love jav and I wanted one more year to see how good I could be, but then I was really looking forward to moving on. I’m struggling trying to forgive myself for feeling guilty about it too.”
I felt a HUGE wave of relief, like somebody gets me! I’m not crazy for feeling this way! It brought me so much peace to know that somebody else felt the same way.
Then the other responded, “You definitely need to keep training! At least one more year! This year made me want to continue with javelin even longer…”
All I felt was burdened. I should have been encouraged by this incredible friend, woman, and competitor urging me to keep going! And yet, it made me feel anxious, and exhausted, and heavy.
Logic doesn’t always win, sometimes the heart does. And my heart was telling me what my mind wasn’t quite ready at the time to admit.
It was time to call a close to my javelin career.
I’m ready to take next year off from javelin. To focus on teaching and giving back to my community what they have poured into me for the last three years. I’m ready to pursue the other parts of who I am and what I’m passionate about. Over the last year, my priorities and passions have begun to pivot. I still love javelin and I love who I’ve become because of my javelin journey, but I am more than a javelin thrower.
I am more than an athlete.
I am an artist.
I am a teacher.
I am a friend.
I am a daughter.
I am a sister.
I am a fiancé.
And those are all parts of my life that I am passionate about pursuing!
My biggest motivation to keep training for next year was the fear of disappointing others. I was (and still am) scared to let others down. All of the people who have supported me, believed in me, cheered for me. My biggest fear is that they’ll think I’m a quitter. That I gave up. That I failed.
But fear is not a good reason to keep doing something. Even if that thing is a good thing.
And those that love you and know you will see your heart and support you.
Quitting brings with it a connotation of shame, an inability to finish; it is not the same as walking away with your head held high knowing that you did everything you could to the best of your ability.
I’ve gritted my teeth through lows in passion and perseverance at various points in my javelin career— that’s natural. But it’s also natural for your priorities and passions to shift and change.
The transition feels hard. I’ve committed so much to “Bethany the Javelin Thrower” and honestly, I’ve put a lot of my worth and identity into that as well. Javelin will always be a part of me, a part of my journey— but it’s not everything.
I got engaged in June and I’m excited to move forward in our relationship, to plan a wedding and invest in our future. I’ve been teaching art at Bellevue Christian for three years now, and they have supported me wholeheartedly in my javelin journey, and now I’m ready pour back into that community what they’ve poured into me. I’m ready to challenge myself and dedicate myself to being the best teacher that I can be. I’m ready to keep learning about my body and exploring new ways to use it, like skiing and taking part in activities without fear of injury ruining my season. I’ve even developed a love/hate relationship with distance running! My current best is 5 miles- and I’m pretty proud of that! My fiancé may talk me into a half marathon… And Lesko says that I can’t say “never” to a marathon but...NEVER.
Needless to say, it’s time to pivot. To walk in a new direction. To look back with pride knowing I gave all that I had, but to look forward with excitement for all that is to come.