I started this blog the summer before I headed off for my freshman year of college. That was almost four entire years ago! Wow! That’s a long time, but that also means there’s a lot of my life before the blog was started that I’ve never really shared on here. Today, a memory popped up in Facebook feed from the “On this day” app. It was a photo from a track meet that happened five years ago. In some ways, that day seems like yesterday and in other ways, it seems like an entire lifetime ago.
Although I don’t do sports at college, I was a three-season athlete in high school. I went to a very small high school, which meant that it was easy to play more than one sport. Year-long club sports required traveling 1-2 hours each way, so very few people participated in them. I started playing soccer on a school team (modified) in 7th grade, then advanced to a JV team in 9th grade and the Varsity team in 11th grade. I wasn’t a great player, but at smaller schools, you very rarely get cut from the team. I played basketball for awhile, but ultimately didn’t love it, so I only played through 9th grade. I started outdoor track in 7th grade, and ran for the modified team that year and the following year. I didn’t really enjoy running, so I decided not to do it in ninth grade. When I quit basketball after my 9th-grade year, my parents told me I had to choose another sport. Indoor track was the only other winter sport available for girls, so I joined the team. It was the best thing I ever did. I did indoor and outdoor track for the remainder of my high school years.
I’ve always claimed that I dislike running, but I think a part of me must have enjoyed it, or else I wouldn’t have spent 2/3 of my school year running on a track team. I did love the way running made my body feel- I felt strong and powerful. We had two coaches. One of them had come to our town after retiring as a English teacher and track coach down near New York City. He had only ever coached boys, and he was one of the best track coaches in the country. Some of his runners had gone on to compete in the Olympics. He was a tough coach and expected a lot, but I’m so glad to have had him as a coach. In Walton, he coached both the boys and girls teams. The other coach was a bit more laid-back but very supportive. He worked more with the sprinters and did a lot of the field event coaching.
Beyond great coaches, though, I also had an amazing team. My soccer team was close in some ways, but my track team was different. We became close friends. I’m not really in contact with most of my soccer teammates, but I still see and am close to several of my track teammates. The team was supportive, welcoming, and we had a lot of fun. I miss spending so much of my time with them.
Our practices were often quite long. We would start every practice with a one-mile warm-up run, then do dynamic stretches. We’d all warm up together, then split up depending on what events we did. Some days we would do intense timed workouts on the track, and other days we would go on distance runs around town. During my junior year, when I was in the best shape of my life, I could run about 5 miles at a 7:30 pace. After we finished our running workouts/distance runs, we would come back to the school and do our core workouts. Sometimes we would do weight work-outs as well.
Regardless of what we were doing, we had fun. We talked the entire time we did our distance runs. I now hate running by myself or running with people who don’t like to talk as they run. It made it so much easier- your mind was on whatever you were discussing instead of the running you were doing. We sometimes took short detours to the river to go swimming or to a playground to play a bit.
The track meets were both my favorite part and my least favorite part. When you raced, everyone else on the team would be on the sidelines cheering you on. It didn’t matter if you won a race, so long as you tried hard and worked at improving your own time. Relays were my favorite and also resulted in my best times. Indoor meets were ridiculously long and actually quite terrible, but we loved them anyway. They were held on the weekends and took up the whole weekend regardless of what day and time they were held. We had to travel two hours to go to them, so if it was a Friday night meet, we’d leave right after school and not get back until 2 in the morning. We’d leave for Saturday morning meets by 5 in the morning, getting back after dinnertime. The venues were chilly but not freezing, and you usually got to sit on a hard floor for hours while waiting for your race that would be over in a matter of minutes. The air was incredibly dry, so that you could taste blood in your throat by the end of your race. We figured out how to make our throats feel better after- Gatorade or Powerade first, then water.
We laughed, we celebrated each other’s successes, and we became best friends. I wouldn’t have traded those years running track for anything. Many of my favorite memories from high school are from practices, track meets, baking parties with the team, and team dinners. Even on the days we had off, we would get together and play games, go for a short run or hike, and just hang out.