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Risk and Reward | Lauren Ryan’s Olympic Dream Becomes Reality

Published Tue 19 Mar 2024

Lauren Ryan had never broken 32-minutes for 10,000m when she arrived in California to chase the 30:40 qualifying standard for the 2024 Olympic Games. Delivering a 25-lap masterclass in both fitness and fortitude, the reigning national champion did what no Australian woman had ever done to all but secure her Paris Olympic berth.

By the numbers, it was objectively ambitious. In a long line of Australian distance running royalty, the legendary Benita Willis stood alone as the only woman from down under to have shattered the 31-minute barrier with the 30:37.68 she clocked at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

Touching down at Sound Running’s The TEN with a 32:09.82 personal best but buoyed by her form after winning the Australian title at On Track Nights Zatopek:10 in December, Ryan proceeded to carve 94-seconds off her career-best to clock 30:35.66 and leap from 23rd to 1st on the Australian all-time list – nailing the Olympic qualifier in the process.

“My coach Lara Rogers was trying to convince me to do it and I was like fine I will do 25 laps if I have to. She said she swore I was ready to run a fast 10k, so I was like if I’m going to do it, I’m going to sit on the pace and try run 30:40 – it’s either that or bust,” Ryan said.

“To be a part of the Australian Olympic team is something that I have dreamed about and now that I know that I won the trial and have the standard, hopefully that’s guaranteeing me selection for the team in the 10k.”

Ryan’s splits only add to the legend. With an outdoor personal best of 15:11.84 for 5000m proving the catalyst for her 2023 World Championships qualification, the 26-year-old just equalled that split in the back half of a 10,000m race – going through halfway in 15:24 before closing in 15:11 to claim third place.

“It’s cool be on the start line with athletes I have looked up to for a long time and being comfortable with that, knowing that I deserve to be there as much as anyone else. Now it’s not just about being part of it, it’s about being competitive,” Ryan said.

“I feel like it’s so easy to get caught up on times and what everyone else is running, and those long-term goals. I have just been trying to enjoy each race and training session, taking my opportunities as they come – it has been huge for me.”

Training professionally out of Baltimore after plying her trade in the NCAA system at Villanova University initially before transferring to Florida State, Ryan has spent the best part of seven years abroad since finishing high school, now reaping the rewards of her own self-belief.

In February, she became Australia’s first woman to break 15-minutes for 5000m indoors with the 14:57.67 she ran in Washington – setting up her Olympic dream in 2024.

“It has just been about consistency and having the right team around me. My coach has been really on board with my agent, we all have the same goals and are ticking the boxes off each week rather than looking at the end goal or times,” Ryan said.

Having all but sewn up her Olympic debut in the 10,000m, the US-based Australian is now setting her sights on jetting home for the 2024 Chemist Warehouse Australian Athletics Championships where she will race in a star-studded 5000m field – which she insists has always been the focus.

“I really want to run the 10k at the Olympics as well, but I would love to see if I could double in the 5k. I have had experience with it at World Juniors and I feel like for me now at that level it’s about competing and racing, it just takes a couple of years to grasp that,” Ryan said.

“I’m definitely excited to be in spikes on home turf soon. Everyone has been running really well and bouncing off each other’s success which is really cool to be involved in. Distance running in Australia is really exciting at the moment, especially for the girls.”

Featuring for Australia twice as a junior at the 2016 World Under 20 Championships and 2017 World Cross Country Championships, Ryan has already put her first senior experiences at the 2023 World Athletics Championships and World Road Running Championships to good use in 2024.

By Lachlan Moorhouse, Athletics Australia
Posted: 19/3/2023