Dear Younger Me: Olivia Baker

Olivia Baker grew up Maplewood, New Jersey and attended Columbia High School. She won multiple states titles in the 400m and 800m. During her senior year of high school, she won the New Balance Nationals Indoor 400m title and placed third in the same event at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championship. After graduating high school, Baker attended Stanford and along the way wracked up eight All-American honors. Her eyes are now set on the 2021 Olympics and will be competing in the 400m and 800m at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. 

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Racing represents the culmination of all your hard work and preparation. It's supposed to be the fun part where you get to show the world what you're made of. But instead of enjoying it, you approach the starting line with fear in your heart.

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Olivia Baker - Professional Track Athlete

Dear 15-year-old Olivia,

You have got so much to look forward to, but don't let these moments pass you by. There is plenty to love about running in high school. 

Grinding through practices outside during the cold winter days; singing with the entire bus on the way to and from meets after an early dismissal from school; sharing a hotel room with three other teammates who will end up being some of your best friends. These are the little wonders you'll wish you had spent more time enjoying. 


Instead you are obsessively worried about racing. 

Racing represents the culmination of all your hard work and preparation. It's supposed to be the fun part where you get to show the world what you're made of. But instead of enjoying it, you approach the starting line with fear in your heart. 

You've won a few races and now you're afraid to lose. Or worse yet, miss the high expectations you've set for yourself. The joy of winning a race is quickly replaced by the fear of losing the next one and you easily miss the moments in between. 

You bury yourself in homework assignments late into the night for which you'd rather stay awake than retire to the monsters under your bed. Homework keeps your mind off of things for a while. Ever-present nerves wrack your body to the point at which you cannot switch classes in school without thinking through your race model and pondering scenarios in the hallway. 

It's awful. 

To your credit though, it works! And it will continue to work for quite a while. You'll graduate high school relatively unscathed, having accomplished everything you believed you could both academically and athletically. 

However, one of these days, you WILL lose and you WILL fall short of your expectations. Hint hint, it's not as bad as your nightmares might imply. But before I tell you what happens in that time, let's start here: 

You are loved, you are important, and you bring value to this world whether or not you are winning races. So, breathe. Repeat that until you believe it. 

Ok. When you lose and miss the mark, it will feel like a flu shot. You expect searing pain as it is unfathomable that the nearly inch-long needle wouldn't hurt as it pierces deep into the skin of your shoulder. Then it happens and it hurts, but not nearly as badly as you had anticipated. The momentary pain of the prick subsides rather quickly, and you are left with a dull ache that hurts just enough to demand your attention. 

This, too, will subside in the coming days, but it is in the dull ache that you will begin to address your mindset. It's in the dull ache that the fear begins to break away and turn into hope.

Hope for what can be achieved rather than fear of what might not be achieved. Hope that you'll discover your full potential out there, one of these days, instead of fear that you'll never see it. Hope that people will see the light of the Lord, through whom you've been blessed with a gift for running, in place of fear that you're not using your gift well enough for God. 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

Fueled by hope, you'll learn to love the day-to-day process. The long runs will become a place of peace for you, and you'll be able to get past four miles without injuring yourself (Would you believe me if I told you that you'll double that and then some!?!?!). You will even be determined to nail the recovery days spent foam rolling, stretching, and doing seemingly endless preventative care (though you still won't touch an ice bath). 

So, don't let a fear of losing rob you of the joy that running brings you. You have nothing to fear! There will be magnificent victories. Stop and appreciate them as they come. You can find satisfaction in the success while simultaneously acknowledging that there is more work to be done. There will also be periods in which you believe that surely your best years are behind you. Stop and embrace the ache in those moments too because what you learn will not only make you a better athlete, but a better person. 


I know you thought that by now I'd be writing to tell you that you accomplished all the goals you can only dream about in this time. You haven't yet, but even if you had, I wouldn't tell you. You only want to know so that you can quit while you're ahead because it won't be worth it to you if you don't ultimately reach your dreams. 

However, know that the wins and achievements are not the end-all-be-all, rather, they are the icing on the cake. There's so much more to love about running than you could ever know right now, so keep running, I promise you; it's worth it. 


23-year-old Olivia