I just finished watching the NCAA Track & Field Championships. It brought back a lot of emotions about competetive collegiate running. Years ago, I was a back-of-the-pack distance runner at Samford University in Birmingham, and never really very good. Like many college athletes my first two years were exhilarating. Unfortunately, about my junior year, the thrill wore off and I was left physically and mentally tired. I was more interested in dating, going out with friends, and shockingly, my school work. I began to resent lap after friggin' lap on that stupid track. More than that, I resented weekends with the team, having running jammed down my throat 24/7. As I watched the women's 1500 race, I couldn't help but to feel for the senior from NC, the defending champ. She started strong and in the last lap faded to 4th place. The only word to describe her at that point would be tired. After the race in an interview, her face was torn with disappointment. I just wanted to hug her. I wanted to tell that years down the road, that moment would only be a memory. No one would give two craps about what happened in college on some track.
Seeing her reminded me of two specific college running memories. The first took place on the indoor track of MTSU where I ran the 3000M. I had been very sick to my stomach for months, but had pressed on through training and had a really crappy season. I grew weaker and weaker and actually collapsed during that race. The culprit- a bleeding stomach ulcer. I had lost so much blood that my iron levels were dangerously low. The problem had worsened b/c no one took my complaints seriously. Coaches and trainers called it stress and I wanted so badly to press forward. My parents were furious and I learned a valuable lesson- I had limits. Fast forward a year to the NCAA Regional Cross Country Championships at the home of the Razorbacks (AK). Their cross country course is one of a kind in the U.S.- it actually has obstacles such as ditches and steps to run over, etc. We jogged the course the day before to prepare for the differences and all was well. We got to some wooden steps that led to a platform. Our coach advised us to jump from the top of the platform and not run down the steps in attempt to save time. We all practiced this method and were successful. A problem arose during the night when it rained. Hard. The next morning we all started the race in complete mud. I debated whether or not to wear my spikes, but decided against it b/c I had never worn my spikes during a cross country race. I wore the faithful waffles that eventually assisted my failure. In the race I got to the wooden steps and platform, but something very bad happened. I made it to the top and then slipped down the steps. I fell hard and got trampled. I layed in the mud and caught my breath while precious seconds passed. Time stood still while the coach screamed at me. I will never forget the look of disgust on his face. I finished, the pearly white uniform covered in mud, knees and arms skinned up from the fall, with the same look on my face as the runner from NC had today- the look of utter disappointment. This past Tuesday I did something I hadn't done since I left SU- I ran on a track. It was weird. Pfitz called for some 100s that I usually do on the road, but for some reason I went to the track. After a lap or two, I think I was finally able to let go of some of the resentment I had about my running time at Samford. (Those two pics are from my college days. In case you recognize me, I was a little bigger then.)