Olympic Hopeful Natosha Rogers on Return to Running After Injury, Corporate World: 'Be Present'

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Kevin Morris

Natosha Rogers is back in the race.

The professional distance runner, 30, is striding towards the Tokyo Summer Olympics with hopes of competing in the women's 10,000m event for Team USA. When the Hansons-Brooks ODP athlete takes her lane at the pivotal track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday, a rush of memories may follow, as this is her third Olympic cycle.

"Training is going really well. I've been waiting for this Olympic trials for a really long time, and it seems like the stars are aligning for me. I've been at this for nine years," she tells PEOPLE. "I'm now 30 and training better than ever. I am more fit than I ever have been in my life."

At the Olympic trials in 2012, Rogers finished second in her event with an impressive time of 31:59 - just 14 seconds shy of the 31:45 time requisite for making the cut for London. Four years later, before the Rio Games in 2016, the dream was dashed again - but Rogers kept pushing. In 2017, she won the USATF Half Marathon Championships and was ranked third on the USTAF road circuit.

Kevin Morris

In early 2018, her world was rocked when she hurt her knee "out of nowhere," and was heartbroken to withdraw from the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Spain. Seeking relief on the road to recovery, she received PRP injections that summer that unfortunately went awry. Rogers says she could barely walk.

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"That took me out for another six months. ... It was really scary," she says.

Unable to run, she lost her sponsorship, hung up her sneakers, and joined the corporate world.

"That was a really tough process. Something that a lot of athletes struggle with is joining the real world when your ability to perform is taken away from you," she remembers.

Hired by a former college basketball player for a job in tech sales, Rogers found herself "making about a hundred cold calls a day" in the demanding new position.

"I got a whole new taste of a different kind of work ethic that I had never experienced before and that I wasn't used to," she tells PEOPLE. "But it was a really good experience."

Kevin Morris

After spending four months behind a desk and training on her own time after work, she regained sponsorship and signed with Hanson-Brooks, leaving her job in July 2019 to run full-time once again.

"They took a chance on me as a 28-year-old coming back into the sport after a lot of ups and downs," she says of her new sponsor. "I'm forever grateful to them for taking such a big chance on me."

The gravity of the opportunity is not lost on Rogers, whose fire has been refueled after time away.

"It just meant so much because this Olympic team means the world to me and thinking that it was over just completely broke my heart for a while," she says of the second chance.

Now, the athlete is manifesting greatness and training harder than ever to make her Olympic dreams a reality.

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Asked if she has a favorite mantra ahead of the competing at the track trials, Rogers joked, "You should see my mirrors! You can't even see yourself through my mirrors in my home because there's just writing all over it."

At the moment, one that particularly resonates is one she wrote herself: "The secret lies within the narrative you tell yourself."

"There's just so much amplitude behind the energy of our thoughts … and a lot of us get caught up in telling our own self the wrong narrative, or we hold on to the pain or the negativity," she explains. "But if you can really choose to tell yourself a different story about your life, then you can manifest it. And that's something I've been really working on, is getting in this meditative state of manifestation."

"Another mantra is 'Be present.' And that's so simple, I know, but it's something that we all suffer with collectively. If we're not present and you're never going to see miracles and these amazing things happen in your life," Rogers says. "That's why I love running; is it requires you to be fully present."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.