Never give up

After a running career filled with twists and turns, a Commonwealth Games medal was Krishna Stanton’s reward for persistence.

My journey has taken me to the highest levels of sport and a teaching career of more than 25 years. It’s now brought me to The Women’s College within The University of Queensland – for a reason. I hope to be a role model, a supporter and a nurturer for young women, and someone who can make a difference in even some small way.

I took up the position of Deputy Head of The Women’s College in January. While it’s a big change from being a classroom teacher to 30 Year 6 boys, it still gives me the opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of young people. And that’s something I’ve wanted to do since Job Week in Year 10 when I did work experience at a catholic primary school in my home town of Leeton, NSW.

Growing up in a small country town, free of the distractions of the big city allowed me to follow my life’s passion – running.

While I wasn’t quick and didn’t have the coordination for ball sports, I could just keep on running. It’s something I believe I was born to do, though I’m sure many a family member or friend has thought I’m a little crazy to have kept it going for this long.

Upon finishing high school, I moved to Canberra and worked in the Commonwealth Bank for two years to support my running. I trained hard and grew up a lot and in 1986, after winning the national championships for the 1500 and 3000m, I was awarded a scholarship at the AIS. I also started my teaching studies that year.

In 1986 I qualified for, but ultimately missed selection, to go to the Commonwealth Games in Edinborough, Scotland. My 3000m qualifying time of 8’54” happened to be the winning time for the event.

1987 was my best year except for maybe the feeling of the Commonwealth Games some 15 years later. I came fourth in the indoor champs over 3000m (three future drug cheats beat me over the line). I was the fifth fastest in the world over 10km on the road and eighth in the World Cross Country, which at the time was the highest ever placing by an Australian.

It did seem possible that I had the potential to win an Olympic medal.

At the end of 1987, just before leaving with the World Champs team, I was diagnosed with a broken navicular bone in my right foot. I took two years to heal with two operations (one in which the bone graft was put in the wrong place) and 12 months of tht was spent in plaster or on crutches.

I lost my scholarship but still felt I had unfinished business and made a comeback in 1990 to win the Australian Championships over 3000m. I went on to make the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the 3000m, only to be bitten on the foot by a spider five days before my race and left unable to walk for a few days. I did compete but well below my best.

1993 saw me have a go at triathlon for variety and to see if I still wanted to be involved in sport.

In 1994 I made the Commonwealth Games for the 10,000m off my tri training, but before I left for Canada I got a bacterial infection in my toe which went undetected and triggered a blood infection and consequently glandular fever which went one step further to chronic fatigue.

I still competed, but after going into the race as the fastest qualifier, I staggered across the line and did not run another step for almost two years.

In 1996, I received a new lease of life in the form of my son Zachary. The pregnancy helped fix the chronic fatigue and I was back in the game. With what felt like a second chance, and with Sydney hosting the 2000 games, I decided to have a go at making the Olympics and running in my home country.

I narrowly missed selection for the games by 14 seconds over the 10,000m, so decided that was finally it for me.

I had done my best and had little motivation to continue trying to run at an elite level. To achieve at a high level in whatever field you choose takes lots of hard work and is extremely competitive.

But the fire was still there, albeit burning with a dull, cool flame.

Sport is about getting everything right on one particular day and maybe that’s what kept me going – to see if I could actually get it right for that one day in four years. The Sydney marathon was my way back in. Winning it gave me a ticket to the Manchester Commonwealth Games of 2002.

The silver medal I won at those games was a journey in and of itself and it’s the crowning achievement of my running career.

Despite stress fractures, a broken collarbone, bone graft operations, a broken leg, chronic fatigue and numerous unlucky circumstances – like a spider bite on the foot five days before the 1992 Olympics – and a diagnosis of coeliac disease in 2006, I still love to run. Running makes me a better version of me.

My running career had had many twists and turns and ups and downs but it has been worth it. I believe persistence is the ability to carry on despite obstacles.

Out of pain is often born an inner strength, from disappointed is built sheer, gritty determination. And whether in sport or in life, with determination you can achieve the most amazing things.

Most people don’t fulfill their full potential but it is far better to have tried than not at all. Whether it’s your hobby or career, nothing comes easy.

Young women today need to realise that they have the world at their feet and that nothing is beyond them if they have the will to pursue their goals. They will confront pain and disappointment - that’s life. Persistence in the face of adversity though is the key. That, and a constant desire to be a better person and to make the world a better place for all is also something we should all strive for.

The Women's College is located at UQ's St Lucia campus in Brisbane.

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