LOS ANGELES — In what was billed as the final race of her professional career, Allyson Felix lost on Sunday.
But she beamed again even before she regained her breath.
The race, held on a 100m track in downtown Los Angeles, culminated “The Allyson Felix Race For Change”, an event presented by the sportswear company Athleta and aimed to raise awareness of the importance of childcare and equality for women.
Felix, who grabbed a microphone moments after finishing second in her last race, referenced Athleta when she said she asked me how I wanted to go out and I said in my dream world running the streets of LA with all my human beings.”
Spectators cheered as Felix, who was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, continued: “It’s been a joy all day just hanging out with everyone.”
But not all joy.
Ashley Henderson said she felt a pang of guilt after beating Felix in the 100 meters, which ended the day’s activities that drew a crowd that included Felix’s parents, older brother, husband and daughter. Hundreds of people came mostly to see Felix, the most decorated American athlete in Olympic history.
But it was Henderson, a sprinter from St. Louis, who won the final race in 11.46 seconds.
Felix was second in 11.66 seconds and Chloe Abbott, a sprinter from Michigan, was third in 12.34 seconds. The heat contained only the three sprinters on the five-lane street course.
“I know this is her event and all about her and it still is regardless of who got to the line first or not,” Henderson said.
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Earlier in the day, Felix had helped his 3-year-old daughter, Cammy, into the starting blocks for the first time. Later, with Cammy wearing sparkly gold shoes, mother and daughter ran down the runway together. Albeit slowly, and one point Allyson Felix grabbed her daughter’s right hand and guided her across the finish line.
No one seemed concerned that Cammy came last on a day that offered a glimpse into the next phase of Allyson Felix’s life, as other mothers and daughters ran the same course at the free public event.
About three weeks ago, Felix ran the final race of his competitive career – winning a bronze medal in the mixed gender 4x400m relay at the World Championships. Now she ran with a different purpose and focus.
After Cammy crossed the finish line, Allyson Felix led her into a VIP tent, got her water and snacks, and sat down next to her on a comfortable couch.
“Just being a mother really just set me down a different path and one that I didn’t expect, I guess,” Felix, 36, later told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s just being more thoughtful and definitely moved things from always being laser-focused on a specific goal all the time to thinking about how I want Cammy to grow up and I think that inspires me to do different things and take different choice.”
The biggest recent choice: retirement from track.
“I think it probably hasn’t even hit yet, what it’s actually going to be,” she said. “This year has been very emotional and it’s been hard to realize that it’s time for me to walk away. But because I’ve been doing this for the last 20 years, it’s a loss of this thing that I absolutely love to do and which I am passionate about.
“I’ve talked to other athletes who have gone down that path and I think it’s just going to be something that I have to figure out, even though I have my next big challenges and I have all the things in place. , which I’ll get to to do. But I think it’s more of an emotional thing, like a loss.”
Could it be time to start raising your own track star in Camryn? After all, Kenny Ferguson, Cammy’s father and Allyson’s husband, is also a former sprinter who won three gold medals at the 2003 Pan American Junior Championships.
“I kind of push her in different directions,” Felix said. “Yes, it might be selfish, but I’ve been to so many track meets. I would love to see her maybe play tennis or golf or maybe do something different. But it is clear what she wants to do, I will support myself.”
Felix is also thinking about his own future, and that will involve more than parenthood. She said a main focus will be her footwear company, Saysh. She also noted that she recently joined the International Olympic Committee’s Athlete Commission, saying, “So I’m excited to hopefully have some impact there, just keep trying to do some of that.”
It’s unlikely you’ll see her working out anytime soon after years of working with trainer Bobby Kersee.
“I blame Bobby for not being the next Bobby,” Felix said with a smile. “I’m, like, ‘The pain you’ve put on my life.’ I think what he’s really given me, him and Jackie (Joyner Kersee), is like the role of mentorship, and what that looks like.
“I don’t have that coaching bug right now. But I want to help the next generation. I want to share my experience and help them along the way. In that way, I want to be active.”
She is already giving back by offering childcare – something she understood was important after giving birth to her daughter in 2018 and eight months later traveling as she prepared for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Felix and Athleta committed $200,000 to fund childcare costs for mothers who are also athletes while traveling to competitions. In June, she provided free childcare for fellow athletes at the USA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
“The dream is for that to be the norm in all cases,” she said. “And obviously it’s going to take a lot of work to get that in place, but that’s where I want to see it happen, and just find ways to be thoughtful and support women in general.”