I have been running since I could remember. Lacing up trainers, wearing short shorts and getting overheated so I can only run around in a sports bra is part of my life. It hasn't been a "lovey-dovey" relationship; like any other relationship we have had our ups and downs, break ups and make ups.
But with my recent injury, I have been unable to run. And it makes me realize how lucky I am to have the ability to run (and can't wait to get back into it). It also made me realize that the sport taught me a lot more than I give it credit for. Here's what cross country and track & field has taught me...
Stay silent before a big race
Before the race, the runners are put together in a group. If you've been running for a while, you recognize a few people. But often times it is a lot of new faces crammed together. Your adrenaline is rushing as you stretch and listen to the race organizers telling you where to go. During this "down time" before the race, runners will sometimes talk about their personal records (PR's). They compare fastest times, trying to figure out if someone is competition or not.
I tried not to interact with others before my race (I was trying to get into the right head-space), but whenever someone asked me my latest time, I would give them my slowest. A dirty tactic, but it meant I was written off as potential "competition," and usually meant I was underestimated. Good. I liked that.
Take one lap at a time
I used to run the 1500 and the 1600 (the mile). That meant four laps - and each lap was a new opportunity. While you want to think about the race long-term, you also have micro-goals within the grand scheme of things you want to hit. My kid brother would try to get laps under 60 seconds, my dad on one side of the track telling him his time and myself on the other taking pictures and yelling out code words (legit, one of them was "Woof woof") so he would know what to do. Keep your racing strategy to yourself, and take it one lap (or step) at a time.
Have a good relationship with your team
Although the races I ran were usually solitary ones (meaning I didn't rely on others to dictate my outcome- see below), I was often put into relays where my outcome was linked to others. A baton would be passed from one runner to another, and you would practice to get that baton pass down perfect. Obviously you would have a better relationship with those you interact with the most, but I would make it a point to cheer for everyone on the team that I could. Nothing bad can come from making friends with everyone (woo networking).
Only you get to dictate your outcome
For those races where it is only you, remind yourself that YOU get to decide your fate, no one else. I don't know about you but when I entered an arena or my shoes hit that red track, I went into a world of my own. Yes, the people were there and yes I could hear the screaming and chanting... but it was just me.
I'll tell you a story seldom heard: not all of my races were good. One of my last was my hardest... at the very end I felt like vomiting and the world was spinning. There were two hills, and my spikes got caught in the foam meaning I fell down. My team was there, cheering me on and giving me encouragement. After the first fall I could have given up... but I didn't. It was hard to get back up but I (and my supportive team) helped me get back up literally.
Don't give up - no matter the elements
That race was in freezing conditions (I was so cold and felt so icky that my friend Cottontail had to carry me back to the car). The race in the picture above was in such a downpour that I had to take my clothes off and dry off my socks and undergarments in the car with the heat blasting. I trained for the AAU Junior Olympics in New Orleans (a few days before Hurricane Katrina hit) wearing all black long-sleeves with my backpack filled with weights in the middle of the Florida summer heat. You won't always have good weather on your race day, so train for all weather, be prepared for the worst, and know that better weather is coming.
Stay in your lane
Depending the race, sometimes you have to stay in your lane the entire time. My kid brother didn't know that his first sprinting race that he was supposed to do that and, although he won the race, was disqualified. Oops! I like to take this advice as, "Keep your eyes in your own lane and focus on your own race." Good life advice, if you ask me.
Don't look back
A cardinal rule in running is to never look back. First, you aren't going that way and secondly, why focus on anyone else? Yes, it's good to know if the "competition" is behind you... but run YOUR race. And if they catch up, that's what sprinting is for!
I joke with my husband that I can't just sprint from nowhere - my fastest sprinting comes after a few miles to act as my "warm up." No matter how tired you are, put in your 110% and finish out strong.
Invest in some good shoes - you're gonna go far
Don't run on "so-so" shoes. Invest in a good pair, because you're going to run far. It makes sense if you are going to be on your feet a lot.
What important lessons did sports teach you?
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Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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