Her lungs felt like bursting, her legs had no energy left in them. Still she pushed herself on. The bell rang for the final lap of the track.
She pictured that tunnel of trees over and over in her mind. How many times had she ran through it? How many 5 a.m. starts, up and straight into her running gear and out she went. Rain, hail or shine.
The lonely hours toiling away down forest paths, along roadsides and on the training track. The days when she wanted to be anywhere else. The friends and family she hadn’t seen for weeks or months at a time.
The crowd roared her down the back straight. She felt a final surge of adrenaline. Her thighs felt energised, she kicked on. She passed the Kenyan and saw the open track in front of her. Round the top bend the crowd were on their feet.
She risked a quick look round, even though her coach always told her not too. She was five metres clear. She just had to keep going. It had all been worth it.
All those sacrifices, including her morals.
She fell to the ground as she passed the finishing line. Noise surrounded her. Other athletes congratulated her, pulled her to her feet and draped a flag around her.
The lap of honour passed her by in a sweep of relief, tiredness and elation. She saw her parents in the crowd, beaming at her.
As she left the arena, an official approached her.
‘Dominika Ivanov, you have been selected for a random drug test, please follow me.’
She thought back to the tunnel of trees and the sides closed in on her world and went black.