The recently retired pro certainly knows how to face and overcome a challenge. On the digital release of the inspiring 2012 documentary, Morrison opens up about what the film meant to her, the near-fatal accident that prompted it and how both have changed her life. Now a coach and motivational speaker, Morrison is ready for the next chapter. Download the film at iTunes.
Janelle Morrison: I was still in the hospital under the influence of a fair amount of sedatives when I first remember hearing about it from a family member. I didn’t think too much about it as I was overwhelmed by a lot of things at that time. Shortly after I returned back home from the hospital I had a surprise visit by some Calgary friends and the producer, Rob Kelly, had joined them, where I met him for the first time. I had a sense that there was an interest in a film at that time, but still it didn’t seem real, so again, didn’t think much about it. Only when Rob came on his own with a team of filmmakers did I understand what was happening. It was motivating to me. Many people ask if it was a hindrance or made for pressure, but it really didn’t. I told Rob that I was going to come back from this and race again as an elite, and if was going to get it all on film then it might make for a pretty awesome story. I give him full credit for going against the recommendations of all the doctors and surgeons he spoke to and deciding to film it anyways, as all medical professionals told him he was nuts and was wasting his time. It turns out his intuition was correct.
TMC: What was it like to see it the first time?
JM: I saw it hours before its premiere in Calgary in November of 2012. I was sort of numb to it honestly. I remember thinking…”I can’t believe I said or did that!” a few times. I put full faith and trust into Rob towards making the final editing cuts for the film. It was a bleak time in my life and I think that’s emulated in the film. Even the shots in Canada with the grey skies add to the reality of the situation. He was truthful in the making of the film, and although I may not like every shot or every thing I say, it’s an honest portrayal of those two years. This being said, a lot has changed since the making of the film!
TMC: How has the accident, the film and the comeback shaped your outlook on life and the next chapter as you retire from professional racing?
JM: The film documents the most difficult period of my life and a time where I learned some very substantial life lessons. I see the film now and I wonder if that’s really the same person? But I guess that’s just it. We’re all changing, growing, and evolving as we make our way through life. I’ve learned who I truly am through this. We learn through adversity and what our true character really is through exceptional adversity. I’m proud of how I faced up to it and how I always stood true to standing one more time than I fell. This is what I taught my kids when I was a teacher, and I believe that they are also proud of me. It’s an awesome feeling. I’ve learned that we all have a purpose in this life and it’s our job to align ourselves with it, no matter what the cost or sacrifices along the way. We must follow it. This is how we manifest the best of ourselves and our true destiny, and thereby make the most substantial difference in the world we live in. It’s such an important thing.
TMC: Among other things, the film highlights the ways sport can connect to us to different aspects of ourselves including the non-athletic or physical. How important is it to you that viewers come to appreciate that triathlon can be a means to something more than records and times and results?
JM: I love that question. When I first left my teaching job to race professionally, I had an ‘expectation’ of what that was going to look like, or at least an expectation about the final result. Now that I am leaving the sport without the ‘win’ that I always felt I was ‘destined’ to achieve, I’ve really learned the most important thing of all. Visions are very important as they are what keep us striving forward and what give us the strength to persevere through massive obstacles along the way, but the vision or expectation can cause you to miss what’s really in front of you if you’re not careful. When I hit the line at Ironman Canada in 2012 in 3rd place at my first Ironman back, I should have been ecstatic. But anyone who watches the film can see clearly that I was anything but happy. I was ‘expecting’ more. And I realized that it wasn’t as big of a thing as I had made it out to be in my mind. I learned that the finish line will never love you back. In fact, the finish line can be a fickle little character.
What’s important is what we learn about ourselves along the way and who we become when we follow our hearts towards our visions. I have chosen to walk away from the sport before that win I so badly wanted in the film. And I’ve done so because I’ve already won. And I won because of how I fought while in the arena. Not because of a finish line result.
It’s likely that had the accident not happened that I would have won a race or two. Not guaranteed, but likely. But the accident did happen and it changed a lot of things. Yet if I were given a choice to erase the accident from my past, I wouldn’t do it. I would still get back in that car on the morning of Nov. 21/2010 knowing the result. And I think that’s really the bottom line. It’s not the finish line. It’s how we live and what we learn about ourselves along the way. And then how we share what we’ve learned. But of course, that’s just my humble opinion.