I’m sitting in a park in Nashville, still 4 hours away from my last race of the season, THE RACE, the focus one I’ve been training for since, I guess, my last track 5k in 2012.
2012 was my senior year of college, and my last year of running for Baylor. I set PRs in everything from the 800 to the 5k that year, and it was hard to feel too bad about choking in the final race of the year at regionals. You’ll get ’em next year, champ. I trotted up to Colorado for my summer job as a camp counselor and focused on 2013.
Injuries always suck, but the one I got in Colorado that dragged through fall was the worst I’d faced. I didn’t handle it too well (you can read all about it and the resulting mental breakdown in the archives here though … Yay writing) but suffice it to say, I didn’t do a lot of running that next year. In fact, I didn’t run a step for six months. When I came back, at the urging of a wisened running coach who visited the store where I worked, the first 10 minute jogs around the Twin Lakes golf course in Waco were almost surreal. I felt like myself again.
I started running with my cross country team again, although I was the old, weird one who kept showing up even though she was in grad school.
The next year, I finished school and moved home, and Steve Sisson at Rogue Athletic Club in Austin let me on his team. I was majorly outclassed for my fitness, coming off six months of 35 miles per week, but my stale PRs and collegiate “pedigree” gave me hope that sticking around would eventually not be as weird as starting. Most of all, Steve looking me in the eye once or twice and saying “I think you can do this,” encouraged me to keep going even when it seemed dumb to me.
Everyone has to answer “why are we doing this?” Why expend so much of our time, energy, our money, our resources, and our hearts in this sport?
I used to think that if I was better at running, my choice to keep doing it would somehow validate it. “Yes… But she’s an All-American! See? It’s not a waste of time. You can put that on a resume.” I never got one of those spots. Next, I thought being a pro would validate it. Then I made it on Rogue AC, and I still have to ask why I’m doing this. I’m not on our sponsored team, so there is another level of “pro” to achieve here, but even my teammates deal with the questions of meaning in running.
They still have to navigate being twenty something in our world, as an athlete, working or at least considering other careers, pursuing relationships, and living on their own. They’ve achieved more than me in running, but I’ve seen behind the Emerald City curtain in pro running and it’s not another world apart from what I do now. It’d be nice to achieve at a higher level, and I sure don’t know what it’s like to run at a USA championship or represent Team USA in a world meet, but at the end of the day you’re still you.
I’m 25, and I’m still running. It makes just about as much sense as it ever did. I run because I like pushing myself, and the daily successes and progress towards a goal makes me feel pretty damn good about myself. Vain as this may be, it’s the best way I can sum it up.
In 2014 my spring season consisted of a trail race and a road 5k where I barely broke 18:00. The main wins that year were showing up every day and not quitting in the face of discouragement.
I got hurt last fall, and you know, married, so I guess that was a good enough distraction. My first run back was on the honeymoon, and I haven’t missed a day (that I wanted to run) since then. I’ve raced one each of a road 5k, a half marathon, a 1500, a mile, a 10k, a trail race, and a 3k, and with the exception of the 10k have been really happy with my progress. My fitness has taken a seemingly impossible amount of time to return, but I’m consistent, healthy, and having fun, so it’s going as well as I can ask.
This year is the first year I’ve run anything close to a track season since 2012. And hey, it’s going pretty well. I PR’d in the half marathon and ran a 4:34 in the 1500. Considering I never broke 4:30 in the 1500 until senior year, I was happy to even be in striking distance this year.
So that’s why I’ve traveled to Nashville – pro title be damned, I’m here because I’ve trained for this and I belong. We all are.