Last weekend, I competed in my school’s jersey for the last time. I ran what would probably be my last 3200m ever. I sat in the school van over the pass to the other side of the mountains for one final ride. I got to call someone “coach” for what may be the last time in a long time, if not ever.
I ran better than I did last year at state track. It wasn’t perfect–35+ mile per hour wind gusts? Not ideal PR conditions, if I do say so myself–but it was fun. For the whole week and a half between districts and state, my coach was telling me to have fun. I didn’t believe her. How could another eight laps be even vaguely fun? (After districts, the qualifiers were muttering under our breaths, only half-sarcastically, “We just did that so we can do it all again in a week and a half?”) But then, after I got home this weekend, I realized it really was. I’m not going to lie: laps five and six were not the most fun experience of my life, particularly because the wind kicked up from what felt like 30-35 mph to 40-45 mph. Regardless, it was all worth it, if not for the feeling of the knowledge that I was running the last 200m of my final high school race. In the end, it was fun. Afterwards, I collapsed into my coach’s arms and gasped/sighed/growled, “I’m done. It’s over”. To have someone at the finish line for me, after three years of tumultuous coaching shifts, was an incredible blessing and a great way to finish my last track season. That in itself made all the uncertainty, pain, and frustration worth it.
And the rest of the weekend? (My race was the second event of the first day). Amazing. I played not-school-appropriate MadLibs; learned how to “smoke” Smarties (from a sophomore); took crazy/awesome pictures; watched a thrower iron every single garment in her and her roommate’s bags for an hour right after we got to the hotel (Why? “Because I really like to iron”…go figure); laughed (after the fact) with a teammate who had overslept until twenty minutes until she had to leave for her race, was awoken by her concerned roommate (the ironing thrower), swore loudly, and scrambled out faster than anyone had ever seen her move before (and she’s a sprinter, so that says a lot); screamed for intense races (and field events: state champion high jumper in the house!); and stuck Oreos to our foreheads (oh, the things you’ll do on a five-hour van ride).
Track used to just be a side-note in my running calendar. It was just a way to train for cross country, just a way to keep myself honest, just a way to get some PRs, just the thing for runners to do (especially those interested in collegiate running…). But over the past couple of track seasons, it’s become less of a running thing and more of a people thing. I’ve gotten slower, been injured, overtrained, and so on. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten more and more attached to the people on the team. In all honesty, I ran this season mostly because I like the people. And I’m so glad I did. I got to know to people I didn’t really know before, and those I did know, to them I grew closer. Perhaps some of it is just senior-year nostalgia, but even though for the past few months, I couldn’t wait for track to be finished, now I wish weren’t it over.
Last weekend proved to me that I’m going to miss these people. I thought I might be a little sad to leave a couple of my friends, but I’m realizing that after thirteen years, there are a lot more people a lot more dear to me than I thought.
I really will miss it all next year: my amazing coaches, all-day meets (particularly the sunny ones), the overwhelming odour of Tigerbalm permeating my room, the chance to get to know people I would never otherwise know, the little black rubber pellets from the turf field getting all over my belongings, being the unofficial team mom/supply cabinet/pack rat (even when my roller stick was used to play croquet *cough* boys’ 4×100 team *cough*), the van rides, the opportunity to watch a nationally ranked high jumper from a tiny private school soar to a state record, yes, even the intervals. I’ll miss them.
“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.” ~Julie Isphording
I thought I had lost the joy–and maybe I did, for a while. I’ve found it again, though. Not just in the running, necessarily, but in the people to whom it connects me.
Thank you Elizabeth, Madelyn, Danielle, Morgan, Lucas, Mark, Kerry, and Garrett, (and Kendall, Drew, Alex B., and Chris) for being awesome (and awesomely athletic) seniors, classmates, and friends. Thank you Bridget, Holly, Jonny, Sam, Jesse, and David for carrying on the tradition in style at state. Darryln, Alex V., Hannah, Grace, AJ, Ben, Alex C., Joey, Daniel, and anybody I forgot, I’m so glad I got to know you all a little bit better this season. Thanks also to Laurel, Taylor, and Coach Laurel (and Vanessa and Coach Karen, even though you don’t have a track team) for being…nice people–teams don’t matter that much, after all. Most of all, thank you Scottie, Coach D., and Brittanie for being the best coaches in the world–or, at least, in my world.