It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since my first national championship race, the Master’s Indoor Track National Championship in Boston, MA. That race is so memorable to me because it was the defining moment when I believed competitive racing is what I’m supposed to be doing.
I remember like it was yesterday, leaving my physical therapist’s office, two days before I was supposed to leave for Boston, tearful and questioning whether or not I was ready. It had been such a long road to get to this moment. Prior to this race, I had so many setbacks including knee surgery, a stress fracture and chronic back problems causing nerve pain and weakness in my leg. This led to muscle imbalances and problems with my running mechanics, which set me up for additional injuries. The rehab was intense. When I finished with rehab I still had to continue with physical therapy to continue to rebuild my strength. All these setbacks prohibited me from racing.
Over time, with one setback after another, I started questioning whether or not competitive racing was for me and started to believe hard work doesn’t pay off. I was so frustrated. After lots of tears and threats of hanging up my running shoes, my physical therapist said to me, “Before you give up, you need to ask yourself, can you see your life without running?” The answer was clear quickly. I knew I loved running. I had proved to myself in the past with successful races that I was good at it and clearly had a talent. I also knew that everything happens for a reason and in order to be the athlete that I aspired to be, I had to fail and experience setbacks. So, I pulled myself out of the hole, rehabbed from my injury and started training for the national championships.
I remember seeing the indoor track for the first time, the day before the races started. I was scared, anxious, and intimidated. I questioned whether or not I belonged. Some of my insecurities stemmed from me still rehabbing my back and leg issues while training for this race. I was afraid the nerve pain would be unbearable, as it had been in the past, and keep me from running my best. I also watched in amazement as very talented athletes warmed up on the track, realizing that they would be my competitors. They were fast and fit! And it intimidated me. And, I had never run on an indoor track much less competed on one. It was a 200 meter track so I had to wrap my head around twice as many laps for each event I was racing. But I knew I had to get my head in the game in order to race well. I watched motivational videos, meditated, and visualized a strong race. I traveled with my inspiration board and read it over and over in my hotel room in the days leading up to the race.
The first day was the 1 mile and the second day was the 800m, the toughest of the two races. When I stepped onto the track for my first event, I was still scared but felt prepared and believed I had what it took to be successful. As I raced each event, my lungs burned, my legs felt like they wanted to give out and my head was telling me to slow down. I felt like I wanted to spontaneously combust. I fought those feelings by repeating, “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever. You can do anything for a few minutes.” I knew when I finished each race I had left it all on the track. My body was tingling from the effort.
My hard work had paid off. I finished 4th place overall in the 1 mile with an “All American” time, a huge accomplishment. In the 800 meter, I received the bronze medal.
When the race weekend was over, I was proud of myself. It was the hardest race I had ever competed in. I proved to myself once again running is what I’m supposed to be doing and hard work does pay off.
Now as I prepare for this year’s upcoming National Championship race, I am excited, anxious and nervous. I’m excited to see what a year of preparation and hard work looks like, and I’m nervous because this is different. I’m more prepared, my body has never been stronger and I also have the benefit of hindsight. It will be an exciting race and one that I’m sure I won’t forget. And, I can’t wait to share it with you.
What was your defining moment that got you hooked on running?