Every year, my college team hosts two home track meets, one the second Saturday and April and the other on the last Saturday. The second meet features the anticipated Alumni Mile, a coed race consisting of cross country/track alumni who show up to either hardcore compete with each other or find their way around the track four times by some other means. On the last lap, many of the guys, and some girls who have steeplechasing backgrounds, decide to give the water barrier a shot, to the amusement of the spectators. I have always been among the spectators, but this year I was excited to race! And yes, I was planning to race….
In December, after only a couple workouts back with the Intervals group, I ran the “PI Holiday Mile” in 5:53. I was happy with that, and told myself I’d give it a go again next at the alumni mile. Given that I have been doing a lot of training since then, I thought I would set my goal for sub-5:50. I’m sure racing a mile the week before racing a marathon is not in most runners’ training schedules; but, it needed to happen. I warmed up with some alumni and felt great. We all stood around with nervous excitement about racing on the track again, watching runners finish the 1500. As we were told to line up, three of my former guy
teammates ran up to the line out of nowhere dressed as Batman, Superman, and a Ninja Turtle. Thus, we began the race while laughing. I was smiling and laughing the whole time, almost. Well, except not in the photo that was taken of me, to my surprise. My coach was providing some hilarious commentary, which I could only hear when I was on one side of the track. I went through the first 200 in around 40-41 seconds feeling really tired, and thought to myself, well, if I don’t break six, it’s okay, I’m marathon training and already sore. I think I started my watch late though, because I was at 80ish for the 400 and could have sworn I’d slowed down. I’m not sure what my other splits were, I’d assume 2:54ish or something but I kind of made that up? I was able to pick it up with 400 to go and finished strong somewhere between 5:48 and 5:49. My watch read 5:49.08, but my coach called out “about 5:48.” It was the easiest 5:48 mile I have ever ran, that’s for sure. I was the first female to finish, about 5-10 seconds behind the Ninja Turtle (aka Rob).
I cheered in my former teammates in the final straightaway, chatted with them a bit, and then went on the best cooldown ever. I felt amazing. This was good. I thought about many things on the cooldown….
– I ran to my house I’d rented senior year and thought about all that I’ve been through since then.
– I thought about how I had never ran a race I was truly satisfied by in college. Ever.
– I thought about how I was only able to run at this meet once before, a 1500 freshman year. If I’d stopped at 1500m today my time would have been about 15 seconds faster.
– I thought about how many awful runs I had on these streets, coming back from various injuries and not feeling like “myself.” I felt like “myself” now.
– I thought about the countless nights, weekends, early mornings I had spent in the library studying, rushing around, worrying, stressing, having breakdowns over classes and exams, when everyone else was probably dealing with some of the life lessons and emotions I am dealing with now, in this year after graduating. Did I really miss out on all that and have no idea? Things hardly felt simple then, but they really must have been. My only cares were becoming a healthier, faster runner, feeling like I belonged, and doing well in school. How did I care so much about those things, try so hard to achieve them, and have none of those things actually happen?
As you can see, what started as a happy, carefree “that mile was so fun, I can’t wait to run a marathon next weekend!” little cooldown turned into a twenty minute reflection of what college was “supposed to” be like versus what it was like for me. It’s like I got everything backwards, and now there’s nothing I can do about it. Everyone has their own unique ways of getting where they’re going, though, and all I can do is be confident that I’m taking advantage of what’s in front of me at the moment, running with it, and seeing where it gets me, in running, my personal life, and academically.
So back to what this was originally about….