Greetings from Minnesota. It’s an overcast and windy day, yet it still feels like spring.
These blustery days remind me so much of a faraway time when brisk winds seemed to blow for every early season track meet. I was always fairly uncoordinated and not great at contact sports growing up, but running was something I could do. Even if I wasn’t the fastest or the strongest, I knew I was capable of finishing the race.
I was still wary of going out for track in 7th grade, but my best friend was a good runner and convinced me to give it a try with her. After a season of running mediocre times as a sprinter, I realized I needed to try a different event. I just wasn’t fast enough to compete beyond junior high, plus there were so many sprinters. Especially starting out, many girls wanted to sprint. Probably because it seemed easier than learning a field event and less work than being a distance runner.
Looking back now, it’s pretty funny to think of the 1-mile and 2-mile as the looong distance races. I remember being awestruck when the distance coach would take his runners out for a 5 mile run during practice. 5 miles, I would think. “How could anybody possibly run that far??” 🙂
As it was, I was pretty intimidated by the distance and jumping events, and I was too scrawny to really attempt throwing the shot or discus. So I picked the “easy” route and became a hurdler.
As the years went by, I promise my form improved beyond this! I don’t know the exact year this was taken, but I’m guessing I was in 8th grade. While I never did become a great hurdler, I did become fairly proficient in the 300 meter low hurdle race. The race pictured is 100 meter high hurdles, and I always seemed to hit at least one hurdle even though they were only several inches taller.
Throughout high school, I was good at academics, and I excelled at activities like speech, mock trial, and music. I never thought of myself as an athlete. (likely, nobody else did either…) Even though track meets tied my stomach in horrible knots and I sometimes dreaded practice, I liked the feeling of being part of the team. Going out for a sport put me well beyond my comfort zone, and I think I needed that.
Other activities, jobs, friends, and the general mayhem of high school eventually meant I didn’t go out for track during my last few years of school, but I will never forget what it felt like to run on the team.
While I didn’t win ANY race that I can think of, I will always remember one race in particular. It was, in essence, my breakthrough…
I was a 10th grader, and I had never earned a trip to the section meet. The top 4 places in each individual race at sub-sections got to go, and my best chance was in the 300 meter hurdles.
The sub-section meet was at our school’s track that year, so we had a fair amount of parents and fellow students watching and cheering. I was beyond nervous, but my hurdler team mates kept reminding me I had improved so much over the season.
The gun scared me to death as it always did, but I felt prepared. I knew the race would hurt because it’s a short, fast effort, but I felt ready for that too. When I crossed that line in 4th, well, I may as well have been winning a trip to the Olympics. 😀
You couldn’t wipe the smile from my face, and my coaches and teammates were congratulating me on all sides. I was thrilled to contribute some worthwhile team points that day too. I truly do not remember how I placed at sections a few weeks later, but I still remember winning that sub-section medal.
Perhaps because I never expected to win anything as an athlete. And perhaps chasing that rush of running, improving, and racing is why I still run….
Were you an athlete in high school? What was your favorite part of the experience?
15 days since our Wellington’s been gone.