Emily Infeld was at the peak of her distance running career when a man she didn’t know became obsessed with her. For three years, she lived in fear and sometimes in hiding.
Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of stalking and harassment.
EMILY INFELD, ONE of the nation’s top distance runners, remembers strolling with her fiancé through downtown Portland, Oregon, on a sunny day in June 2020 when her phone rang. It was a security team member she had been set up with through her sponsor, Nike.
“We have some troubling news,” she remembered the man said. “Your stalker … has rented a place 2 miles away from your house.
“And he has posted on LinkedIn that he was coming to Portland specifically to kill you.”
She and her fiancé, Max Randolph, decided to leave town right away, but they couldn’t get a plane for two days. She tossed and turned all night at a hotel in nearby Beaverton. The next day, they moved to another hotel, and another on the third day.
“I was paranoid the whole time,” she said. “I looked out the windows, I paced, I couldn’t be still. I was really scared.”
When Infeld boarded a plane to Atlanta on the third night, everything she’d achieved — her track records at Georgetown, her bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2015 world championship, her race in the 2016 Summer Olympics, her Nike career — seemed to fall away.
“I’d worked so hard to become a good runner, but in a singular moment, it felt like all of that was being taken away from me,” Infeld said. “My life was no longer in my control. I mean, I was running away from my home and I kept thinking, ‘Is this even real? Is this really happening to me?'”
INFELD WAS 28 and training for a second Olympic Games when a man saw her on the internet and became obsessed in 2018. For three years, she lived in fear and often in hiding. An athlete whose life was built around running far and wide could no longer leave her home alone. She and her fiancé kept a baseball bat in the car trunk and a metal bar by the front door.
She appealed for help to the police, Nike and the courts. They all told her to be patient. She was patient, while working through the legal system to obtain a protective order that ultimately did little to protect her.
Infeld’s situation is sadly common. According to a Pew Research study this year, 1 in 3 American women under 35 say they have been sexually harassed online. Harassment is a particularly prevalent problem for women runners, who often cover long distances alone and with little protection. In a recent Runner’s World survey, 84% of women said they have been harassed while running, and a 2017 survey found 43% of women have experienced harassment more than once.
Stopping harassment and prosecuting culprits can be difficult due to a patchwork of state and federal laws on cyberstalking and online harassment. In many states, laws are restricted to communication sent directly to victims and do not apply to messages posted on third-party platforms, such as LinkedIn and other social media, and some require proof that the alleged harasser could carry out the threatening behavior.
But Infeld’s case was further complicated by the nature of her stalker, a complete stranger who apparently had fallen through the cracks of the mental health system after suffering a head injury that made him a stranger even to his friends and relatives.
What happens when an Olympic runner can no longer run without fear? What happens when a man’s brain changes? And what happens when the system fails both of them and their lives intersect?
ONE DAY IN April 2018, Infeld opened Facebook Messenger while icing her injured foot. There were dozens of messages from someone named Craig Donnelly. In his profile picture, he looked young, white, with a goofy smile. He introduced himself as a USA Track and Field coach. “I noticed that you’re injured, I want to recommend some things for your recovery,” she remembered one message read, with links to websites about hormone production and endurance running.
She sent screenshots of Donnelly’s messages to her coach and agent. She reached out to USATF to verify his identity but didn’t hear back.
For the next month or so, the messages kept coming, some early in the morning, some late at night. Some were about running, others about injuries and still others about how she could improve. After about a dozen messages, she asked him to stop contacting her and blocked him.
Then she began getting calls from an unknown number. In many voicemails, Infeld couldn’t make out what the man she believed to be Donnelly was saying. In one, he said: “I am easy to please and have only two requests. One is that the ceremony is not held in a church in Santa Barbara, California, and that’s in the jurisdiction of the annulment, and two is that the singer is also a Christian — Carrie Underwood. I am pretty sure she will perform for free, much like I have provided professional services for free in the past.”
On a Sunday in July, Infeld was visiting a chiropractor when she received an email with the subject line: “Wedding preparation.” The email read, “The rings should be here on Tuesday, and my suit by end of the week (all black with probably my favorite light blue power tie.)” The sender said he would take a red-eye to Portland for the ceremony at 2 p.m. the next Sunday.
“The archbishop who issued the annulment or one of his clergy will be officiating. We can cover the rest of all the preparations together including obtaining a license where you should keep your last name,” the email read. “Everlasting, Craig.”
“I felt weird in the pit of my stomach,” Infeld said, “but I still kept telling myself that there was no way this guy has my address.”
Three days later, FedEx called. An expensive package needed a signature.
“This person has been stalking me. I don’t know who this is. Please send it back. I don’t want it,” Infeld said in tears. The FedEx worker told her she had another package coming from the same person. She refused to sign for them and asked if she could block packages. FedEx said no.
Infeld asked herself if she had done something wrong. Had she been too open on social media? Why did he pick her?
The next day, Infeld and her fiancé went to the Home Depot to purchase a security camera system. When they reached her condo, two FedEx slips hung limply on the glass door.
Infeld carefully placed them in her purse. They set up the security system, then left town for the weekend. She didn’t want to be home at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
When she returned, there was no sign of Donnelly on the security system. She went to the Multnomah County Circuit Court to apply for a protective order.
In court, she explained her situation to the judge — the Facebook messages, the packages, the prospect of him showing up at her door. Her hands shook as she held up the FedEx slips.
The judge approved a temporary stalking protective order. As she walked out of the courtroom, she saw more than a dozen women waiting to plead their cases.
“I felt relieved,” Infeld said. “… I thought, ‘There is no way this guy is coming to me.'”
Two months later, Multnomah County granted her a permanent stalking protective order. Court records show that police in Hillsborough, New Jersey, served Donnelly with notice of the protection orders on Sept. 26 and Oct. 31, 2018.
Infeld didn’t hear from Donnelly for 16 months, long enough that she thought she could put the incident behind her. She prepared for the Tokyo Games, and her times were good enough to qualify. She was at the peak of her physical training, focused on her goal: an Olympic medal.
IN 2005, CRAIG DONNELLY enrolled at Westmont College, a small Christian university in Santa Barbara, California, and joined the track and cross country teams. Westmont coach Russell Smelley said Donnelly got along “famously” with his teammates and “was very engaging. He was funny, talked a mile a minute. He got along well with everyone.”
Smelley thought Donnelly had the potential to compete for the NAIA championship and tried to work with him so he could relax and “just enjoy the running.” He called Donnelly a “student of the sport” because he read up on other runners.
One summer, while working out alone, Donnelly went for a long run outside and then started running inside on a treadmill to reach 30 miles, Smelley said. “It was an unreasonable goal. But when you’re determined, sometimes you do things that are unreasonable,” he said.
Donnelly passed out and fell, Smelley said, his leg landing on the spinning treadmill belt, which cut deeply into his calf.
Donnelly left Westmont, partly because he wasn’t on scholarship and couldn’t afford it anymore, for Oklahoma Baptist University in 2008, Smelley said. OBU head track and field coach Ford Mastin said Donnelly also blacked out on a treadmill there but that someone got to him right away.
Donnelly started dating Brandi Thompson, a freshman distance runner on the OBU women’s team, and they married in 2010. The couple ended up in Omaha, where Brandi worked in retail and took classes at Nebraska-Omaha, according to court records and an online profile. Donnelly was active in the running community and, as of 2016, had registered with USA Track and Field as a coach, which required passing a background check.
For the most part, Donnelly’s former teammates, a few of whom agreed to talk to ESPN on the condition they remain anonymous, described a guy with a distinctive personality who could be socially awkward. His coaches recalled a headstrong athlete who thought he knew better. And while they differed on how troubling those traits were, they all agreed that they would not have expected his alleged online interactions with Infeld.
“I never saw him as threatening to anyone else other than himself, by doing too much and hurting himself,” Smelley said.
“He was just matter-of-factly superior in his ideas,” Mastin said. “But not … attacking or aggressive.”
A relative, who wished to remain anonymous because of safety concerns, described Donnelly as a quiet and shy kid who “became more of a hermit and hung out alone in his room more and more as he got older. He was never in trouble criminally.”
Will Lindgren, executive director of Nebraska Run Guru Elite, where Donnelly ran on a regular basis, said, “Nobody exhibited more competitive drive and spirit. … He did some remarkable stuff in the short two years that he did run for me.
“He was a good kid, you know?”
IN FEBRUARY 2020, Infeld was in her Boston hotel, getting ready for her first 5,000-meter race of the year. The indoor race would indicate if she was on the right track for the Olympic trials in June (later postponed by a year because of the pandemic). She hadn’t thought about Donnelly in months.
Then Randolph called and told Infeld to check her social media: Donnelly was back.
Infeld opened Twitter, then Instagram. Posts under Donnelly’s name suggested he had been Infeld’s coach but that they had fallen out. The tone was more menacing than before, questioning Infeld’s IQ, referring to their “marriage” and “divorce” and accusing her of owing him money.
Infeld had thought her ordeal was over, that the protective order and the police had stopped him. “My heart was pounding because it was something that I honestly thought was done,” she said. “When I got this barrage of messages, that’s what scared me.”
But she had a race to run and had been training for months. She refused to be derailed. “I kept telling myself, ‘There is no time to think about this. Just focus on the track and the motion and the breathing.'”
Infeld finished the race in 14 minutes, 51.91 seconds, a personal best, the second-best time by a U.S. runner and a time that would qualify for the Olympics.
Her happiness was mixed with dread. She blocked account after account, but the messages and comments kept coming.
DONNELLY’S LIFE SEEMS to have changed in 2016. On April 27, he was running at Standing Bear Lake in west Omaha. Around 1 p.m., a 911 call came in reporting an individual with a possible seizure at the lake area, and a rescue unit was dispatched, according to records obtained by ESPN.
According to portions of his medical records included in public court filings, interviews with relatives and friends, and details his wife, Brandi, posted on a GoFundMe donation site, Donnelly had fallen backward and hit the ground after suffering an epileptic seizure. He underwent emergency surgery, during which doctors removed a portion of his skull and a section of the left side of his brain.
“As of this posting on 5/8/2016, Craig remains in the ICU …” reads the introductory entry on the GoFundMe page. “Doctors and staff are hoping to move him to the rehabilitation section of the hospital this week. He is awake and interactive, but still on a feeding tube and unable to walk. Doctors have yet to determine full impact.”
An entry two days later noted that Donnelly had taken his first steps and would have to undergo surgery to insert a feeding tube. Sixteen days later, an update stated that Donnelly was moved to a rehabilitation section of the hospital, had started to eat soft foods and was undergoing several hours of daily therapy.
He was later released to Brandi, who was granted temporary guardianship over her husband. Her court filing states that Donnelly was “unable to take care of his physical needs” and needed someone to make medical decisions for him.
Natalie Ray, a former teammate at OBU, visited the Donnellys a few months after the accident. She said Donnelly seemed easily distracted and spoke in short sentences. He was unusually thin, even for a runner.
“After the accident, he looked different. … You just couldn’t really have a deeper conversation with him,” Ray said. “It was just so simplistic. … He couldn’t really process complicated emotions. He didn’t have a sense of common sense.”
Donnelly’s relative who didn’t want to be named told ESPN that Donnelly has had seizures all his life, and the first one happened in elementary school. He was wearing a medical bracelet at the time of the accident, according to the GoFundMe page.
In July 2017, Brandi filed for bankruptcy, noting that her husband was disabled and drawing disability payments. In September, she filed papers with the court to end her guardianship of him, attesting that he was back to hiking, walking, biking and running and was going on outings with friends, and that he didn’t need help with his physical care anymore. She attested that his mental health had improved and he had gone from “lack of empathy to wanting to see friends.”
In early October 2017, according to court records and interviews with people who knew the couple, Craig had moved back to New Jersey to live with his mother. Brandi filed for divorce and would later move out of Nebraska. ESPN reached her by phone, and she declined to be interviewed.
Ray said Donnelly took one of the couple’s cats and got on a plane to New Jersey, and after that, his wife filed for divorce.
“She was trying really hard to be supportive and encouraging to him,” Ray said. “She was doing everything she could.”
ESPN obtained portions of Donnelly’s medical records through court filings and online posts and shared them with Dr. Geoff Manley, a neurotrauma specialist at UC San Francisco. Manley said that Donnelly’s CT scan shows injuries to both the bilateral frontal lobes, in the front of the brain, and the cerebellum, in the back.
“You could have a brain injury, particularly to the frontal lobes … which can cause personality change, because the frontal lobes are really involved in insight and judgment and executive function,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story. There are at least 2.8 million documented traumatic brain injuries in this country every year.”
A search of criminal records by ESPN and a private security firm Infeld worked with through Nike found no notable incidents in Donnelly’s past prior to 2016.
After that time, though, there were a few traffic violations and alleged trespassing at a bank in New Jersey. And there were the complaints Infeld made.
After his divorce, Donnelly moved to Virginia, where he worked with a church group. “He’d make statements that we knew just weren’t true. Like he had said that he was dating Lauren Daigle, the singer. And every once in a while, he’d say something — about Illuminati or something like that,” said Bryan Jones, a pastor who worked with Donnelly.
Jones said Donnelly checked himself into a hospital for help because he “was having some thoughts that he didn’t like, and for his safety,” but he was discharged and left Virginia soon after.
Donnelly began attacking Jones and the church, posting on Facebook that they were “not enlightened” and that “they were fake,” according to Jones. That was the last Jones heard of Donnelly.
Since then, Donnelly has posted on social media constantly, including angry posts about other women he claims to have relationships with, such as Daigle, a Christian singer-songwriter, and violinist and YouTuber Lindsey Stirling. (Stirling declined to be interviewed; a representative for Daigle told ESPN they were unaware of Donnelly.)
Donnelly’s friends said they knew he needed help, but they couldn’t get in touch with any of his relatives. One even considered getting law enforcement involved, for Donnelly’s own well-being.
“I reached out to him and said, ‘Hey, man, let’s talk. Please call me. It seems like maybe you’re going through a tough time,'” he said. “He said, ‘No, you just don’t understand like the rest of the world. You’re like everyone else.’ And then he blocked me on everything.”
Donnelly’s relative who didn’t want to be named told ESPN that Donnelly has cycled in and out of the health care system without receiving the treatment he needs. “They take him in, get him on meds and toss him back out into the world when his insurance will no longer cover his stay,” the relative said. “Then he reverts back to his unhealthy ways. This has been a vicious cycle.”
IN JUNE 2020, Donnelly applied to rent a room in Portland, about a dozen miles from Infeld’s home. His mother, Elizabeth Applegate, vouched for her son and told the landlord Donnelly was a “kind person,” according to the landlord, who wanted to remain anonymous. He also ran a background check on Donnelly that initially surfaced no concerns.
After Donnelly moved in, a female tenant who also lived in the unit called the landlord telling him she wanted to leave the house immediately, he said. She told him that Donnelly smelled bad, that his only luggage was a trash bag filled with clothes and that he had screamed on the phone and then at her, the landlord said. Neighbors also called the landlord reporting screams.
The landlord said he asked Donnelly to leave and promised to return his deposit. Donnelly started yelling “and came up with all sorts of crazy things … and then threatened my life,” the landlord said.
When the landlord called Applegate, he remembered, she said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. He threatens my life all the time.”
Donnelly agreed to leave the house but continued to send the landlord angry emails. When the landlord received a more comprehensive background check on Donnelly, it included Infeld’s protective order. He “put two and two together” and informed Nike.
A day or so later, Infeld’s private security firm discovered that Donnelly had rented another apartment 2 miles from Infeld’s house. They asked her to leave town.
Applegate wouldn’t talk to ESPN, but in a short series of emails, she said that her son has been through quite an ordeal and had to learn to eat and walk again after the brain injury in 2016. “Then he was hospitalized and given some drug which made him fairly catatonic. I believe that he feels let down and abused by many and therefore, lashes out. I know, and a policeman here in town, believe that he would not hurt a fly,” she said.
“… As far as Emily Infeld goes, he may have been nearby in his travels but that’s all it was.”
THE FIRST WEEK after Infeld and her fiancé fled Portland for Atlanta, she stayed in bed for hours. She worried they had contracted COVID-19 on the plane. She feared Donnelly had followed them. One day, she stopped midway through a set of basic hip exercises to rehab a stress fracture. What is the point, she thought. She told her physical therapist she couldn’t bring herself to do them.
She received updates from the private security firm. She called Portland Police every week. They told her they’d sent an officer to interview Donnelly. “This guy’s out to get you,” she remembered an officer telling her. “He knows that you have a protective order. He knows that he’s violating it. He thinks you guys were married. He knows that he threatened your life. But he said that he just wanted to scare you and he wanted you to know how much he hated you.”
The police told Infeld they didn’t arrest Donnelly that day because they wanted to get his statement on the record and hadn’t read him his Miranda rights, she said. They told her they were working on an arrest warrant.
“The system is so messed up, and this is what makes me so angry,” she said. “They interviewed him, they called us and made us feel so terrified. … They were like, ‘It’s a good thing you guys are gone, this guy means to do you harm.'”
In late July, Nike asked Infeld to return to Oregon to satisfy her race requirements. “It was implied to me that if I didn’t return to race there was a high likelihood that my pay would be cut, without consideration for the pandemic or my situation,” she said. (In a statement, Nike said it “did not mandate what races Emily ran in as a Nike athlete; those decisions are left up to the athlete and their team” and that it “took this matter extremely seriously and put Emily’s safety first.”)
Infeld said she told the police she didn’t feel safe, but didn’t hear back. She spent about $2,000 on an Airbnb miles from her house, too afraid to go home.
She avoided going on long runs alone. When she ran outside, she carried mace and stayed close to home. She disguised her location in Instagram posts. She slept under multiple covers, pillows lining the sides of her body. If I can’t see somebody, they can’t see me, she told herself. She considered getting a gun.
On July 30, 2020, Multnomah County prosecutors charged Donnelly with six misdemeanor counts of having violated a stalking protection order. The court records detail some of the social media harassment and other contact that Infeld reported. They note that Infeld believed Donnelly used his coaching credentials to gain access to an online running portal that had her personal contact information.
Lt. Greg Pashley, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, told ESPN that shortly after police interviewed him, Donnelly left the state again, making it difficult for them to take any action.
ESPN read some of Donnelly’s messages and posts to Adam Scott Wandt, an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice with an expertise in online harassment.
“This is a situation that needs immediate law enforcement intervention,” he said. “These situations very often turn out very poorly … with the person’s death or with somebody dying. These are not idle threats.”
Wandt said engaging in written or verbal harassment and making threats is a crime, but the level — and law enforcement’s ability to act — varies by state. Infeld lives in perhaps one of the toughest states in which to prosecute someone for threats and harassment. Oregon’s state constitution has robust free speech protections, and judges have deemed some criminal designations of harassment unconstitutional.
Mental health also complicates matters, Wandt said, because punishment isn’t necessarily a deterrent for someone with a mental illness.
“Research shows that police are more than likely to ignore complaints where the suspect has mental challenges or mental illnesses because arresting a person, putting them through the system, might make the situation worse, not better,” he said, especially if that particular court system lacks a good diversion program for people with mental health needs.
After Donnelly left Oregon, Infeld heard through the private security firm that he was traveling throughout the country and might have been stalking another woman. She also learned that the FBI was looking into the case. For nearly a year, she didn’t know where he was.
ONE DAY IN March 2021, Infeld, now 31, decided to go on a run — alone. She worked up the courage all morning long. She did a two-mile loop around her condo and repeated it.
When she got home, her cat, Boots, wasn’t there to greet her. She called his name, making hissing noises. No response.
She picked up the long metal bar she keeps by the door, convinced Donnelly was in the house. She searched each room, calling for Boots and slowly peeking behind every corner and curtain. Finally, she reached the master bedroom.
Boots was sitting in the corner, licking himself. She dropped the bar, her body unclenching.
After three years, she didn’t think the messages would stop or that the police would arrest Donnelly. When she sent Portland Police more messages from him, an officer emailed her, “I’m shocked that this guy hasn’t been picked up yet on his arrest warrant. … To the best of your knowledge, is he still in Las Vegas?”
“That just made me so mad, because I was like — after [all of] this? How would I know where he is?” she said.
“It’s so frustrating when you have these people around that are supposed to help protect and serve and take care of you. You feel like you’re discarded.”
Frustrated and angry, she decided to post about Donnelly on Instagram. As soon as she did, hundreds of women messaged her, sharing similar stories.
“Just the quantity of messages from people that are like, ‘I’m going through something so similar,’ just made me so angry,” Infeld said. “I felt super supported and loved, but I also felt so sad that our system is not helping any of these victims — and all of the onus is on the victim to protect themselves.”
Then on June 4, Applegate, Donnelly’s mother, emailed ESPN saying that police in Tennessee had arrested her son, now 36, the night before, which ESPN confirmed with an official at the Brentwood Police Department.
“He actually called us,” Asst. Chief Richard Hickey said. “He called us because he felt like he was the victim of a scam where somebody was trying to steal his money.” When officers arrived at the motel where Donnelly was staying, they ran his identification and took him into custody when they noticed the July 2020 arrest warrant out of Oregon, Hickey said.
According to the police report, as Donnelly talked about the $201 million he said people were trying to take from him, “it was immediately apparent Mr. Donnelly was suffering from some type of mental health episode.” Donnelly told police he had a traumatic brain injury, and that he had attention-deficit disorder and was not taking medication.
When asked why it took the Portland Police about a year to follow up on Infeld’s case, Pashley said that officers were tied up with the daily, sometimes violent, protests that engulfed the city after George Floyd’s death last summer. Prosecutors were similarly slammed, he said.
“I know that a lot of crime victims felt as though their cases weren’t being followed up on and, in many cases, they weren’t,” Pashley said.
“These are horrible situations for victims, and as police officers we want to be as responsive as we can. … At some point, there are limitations on what we can do if a person leaves our state. Throw on top of it the fact of what was going on last summer. They were completely hampered by the reality we were all faced with.”
Pashley said that an investigator had noted in Infeld’s report last year that if she called regarding Donnelly, a minimum of two police cars should respond immediately. He said this was a sign of their commitment to her safety.
Hickey, the officer in Tennessee, said officials in Multnomah County indicated that they were planning to bring Donnelly back to Portland, which he said was an unusual move for someone wanted for a misdemeanor. But on his way to Oregon, Donnelly was handed over to the U.S. Marshals and taken into federal custody.
On June 7, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland charged Donnelly with cyberstalking and interstate violation of a protection order, both felonies. The complaint was filed under seal, which was lifted in early July.
The federal cyberstalking charge Donnelly faces carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year. Interstate violation of a protective order also carries a five-year maximum, with no mandatory minimum.
As of Monday, Donnelly was awaiting transfer by the U.S. Marshals to Portland, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in an email. He declined to say why the office chose to prosecute this particular case, but it’s one of only eight cyberstalking cases the Portland office has prosecuted over the past three years.
ESPN reached out to Tennessee attorney Henry Ambrose, whom Donnelly retained after his arrest, according to court records, and William Shockley, Donnelly’s court-appointed attorney, and they declined to answer questions. Applegate also did not respond to a request.
Donnelly, before his arrest, wrote an email to ESPN after a reporter had contacted Applegate. The email accused ESPN of slandering and libeling him while alleging that the FBI had actually served Infeld with a stalking order, which is not true. He claimed ESPN owed him more than $200 million, threatened to “serve” ESPN with a stalking order and referenced two attorneys by name, both of whom told ESPN they did not represent him.
INFELD RUBBED ICE cubes on her palms as she jumped up and down, warming up her feet at the rescheduled Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. It was 85 degrees on the morning of June 26, an unusually warm day during a record-breaking heat wave.
During the first half of the 10,000-meter final, Infeld ran with the main pack, only slightly behind the first four runners, led by Emily Sisson. A commentator reminded viewers that Infeld is known for kick finishes, a burst of speed near the end of the race, and that she shouldn’t be discounted.
With about a minute to go, Sisson lapped Infeld on her way to the finish line. Infeld’s face fell. Her shoulders dropped. Her kick finish never came. She finished in eighth place — one minute and 16 seconds behind Sisson — not enough to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“[It was] probably one of my worst races,” she said. “It’s never a fun place to have one of your worst races at the trials. … I feel like I’m fitter than that race showcased.”
Infeld said Donnelly was just one factor that affected her performance in a year with “a lot of distractions.” Her physical therapist, Jessica Dorrington, said she saw a dip in Infeld’s performance each time Donnelly resurfaced.
“You start to see her excelling, and then [he] contacts her and then all of a sudden it was, ‘Oh, I’ve got to take a break,’ ‘Oh, I didn’t finish the workout,’ ‘Oh, I didn’t go to practice today,’ because her nervous system isn’t getting that calm down period,” Dorrington said.
The stress made it difficult for her body to recover and led to injuries, according to long distance running champion and friend Kara Goucher, who has also been harassed and stalked during her career.
“As an athlete, that’s worst-case scenario,” Goucher said. “[It] makes sense why she’s had so many problems [the] last couple of years, staying healthy, because she’s always in that flight or fight state of mind.”
“It’s robbing her of the good, the prime years of her career,” Goucher added. “She’s gonna someday look back and wonder if the prime of her career was stolen by this.”
The past three years have left their mark. Infeld is careful not to post photos of where she lives and trains on social media. She no longer receives mail at her condo. She has lost close friends, who didn’t believe Donnelly was a threat and accused her of seeking attention. She still takes precautions at home.
“We still put this bar under our door at night, we still have our security system up, and I think we’re just going to keep that in our everyday routine,” Infeld said.
But now that Donnelly is in custody, she feels like she can move about more easily. “I definitely feel less anxious and stressed about it just knowing where he is,” she said. “I’m glad he’s off the streets.”
She’s working with the FBI on their case against Donnelly, but she hopes he doesn’t just go to jail. “I hope he can get help for his mental health,” she said. “I don’t know if he will ever be back to 100 percent — I don’t know if that’s realistic — but just helping him to live life.”
“I felt for him many times.”
With the next Summer Olympics only three years away, she wants to keep training and take another crack at making the Olympic team. In her first two races this summer, she set a personal record in the 1,500-meter race and finished second in another. She and Randolph are planning their wedding for the fall.
She doesn’t know when she’ll feel normal again. She thinks it will take her a long time to heal. “I need to be patient with myself and accept that these emotions will come in waves.”
But when she travels around the country this summer for races, Infeld will feel something she hasn’t felt in years. She’ll feel safe.