Getting into Diamond League races is a precarious task. Canadian Olympian and 1,500m runner Gabriela Stafford would know.
Stafford has now raced twice in the Diamond League: first in Rome last summer, where she ran a blazing 4:03 1,500m, and a second time on Saturday in London, where she ran a stunning 3,000m to come fourth, with a huge new personal best of 8:45.67.
A big part of elite track and field is getting into good races, and entrance to these fast races is not cut and dried. There are no official standards or rules. It’s a waiting game to see who will give you a chance.
— Athletics Canada (@AthleticsCanada) July 21, 2018
Stafford gave us a glimpse as to what it takes to get to the start line of a Diamond League event.
“The hardest part about doing the Diamond League is getting in. It’s a waiting game. I found out a week before London that I got in.”
She continued, “You get the text from your agent that you’re in, and you book a last-minute ticket to wherever the race is. Once you arrive, they put you up in a hotel with all of the other athletes.”
“There’s a dining area, so you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner provided for you. You get your accreditation, and then you’re able to hop on the shuttle to the track. Diamond League races operate a lot like the World Championships, but instead of lasting a week or two, it lasts a day.”
Stafford says, “On race day, there’s a 400m warm-up track that is separated from the main stadium. Runners will warm up there before heading into the call room 20 minutes before the guns goes off. Rome was super cool, because there was a tunnel that went between the warm-up track and stadium. Only athletes, coaches, therapists and agents are allowed in the warm-up area.”
Stafford said that runners are walked onto the track six minutes before their events. And then the gun goes. Once the gun has gone, it’s up to the runner to prove themselves. “On the start line it’s exciting and nerve-racking. These opportunities are so hard to get, and you don’t want to blow it. You can’t risk future chances of getting these opportunities.”
She continues, “When you’re in my position, just out of reach of world-class, they’re taking a chance on you. You want your performance to reflect that chance being worth it for them.”
Stafford enjoyed her race Saturday and was grateful for an opportunity to “mix it up with the big girls.”
Other Canadians who competed in London were Mohammed Ahmed, who was seventh in the men’s 5,000m, with a time of 13:16.82, and Sage Watson who was eighth in the women’s 400m hurdles, in 56.21.