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Run Your Race

March 6, 2012

I have no idea why I was on the track team in high school. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t exceptionally strong. It was probably because I was willing when no one else was. I was a shot putter. I jumped long one time too. The only thing I never did was run. Until I had to.


It’s a typical Burbank morning, like stepping into a drink cooler with the knowledge that by ten it will morph into a convection oven. The marine layer catching and slowing the air through my esophagus for the first two hours freaks me out and makes me glad that my whole task is to spin around and fling a rock. My friend Meghan is one part Flo Jo and two parts real housewife of atlanta ten years too soon. She once walked out of a basketball game when a ref dared to suggest that her three inch nails were a) fake and b) needed to be removed, neither of which would ever happen. She is strong and aerodynamic. Oh yeah, and she’d give Speedy Gonsalez a run for his money. Meghan runs the first race of the day and wins easily, hardly needing to catch her breath. Her second race invoves hurdles. I’m reading a book when I hear gasps around me. I process the tiny, sparkly, crumbled ball on the track while my feet carry me down through the bleachers and onto the grass where she has been uncrumbled and is surveying the damage in her way. “Girl, that there is my bone!” Fascination wins out over pain every time. We’ll have to pull out of the final relay having just lost our anchor. Unless…

Coach looks at me and I laugh. If this was a movie I would say no no and shake my head. Then I’d go on to be the hero and win the whole thing. It’s the only event for two of the girls, so they are really pushing for me to just try. The original plan was to put the slowest girl third so Meghan could make up the lost time. I wonder why no one wants to shuffle the order at least so that the two slowest girls aren’t the last ones to relay. “You’re not that slow” is Coach’s encouragement.

It’s not that I expect to come in anything but last. What I don’t expect though is to watch the first place finisher cross the line before I even have my hand on the baton. There should be a mercy rule in track. It’s over before I round the second curve but I’m not allowed to quit. My lungs are burning only marginally more than my face. I’m running as fast and as hard as I ever have or ever will. The blood in my ears leaves the tiniest amount of room for a vague awareness of the thundering applause happening all around the track. I want to close my eyes and spirit myself home. The day is over and I see a mother standing by the fence, waiting for me to finish before joining her children in the car. Of all the pity cheerers I appreciate her the most even before I can make out whatever it is that she’s shouting. I shake some more blood loose in my ears to make room for what’s coming. “Don’t you worry about it, baby. Just run your race. You just run your race, baby. You’re doing great!” That’s all I hear and that’s all I need. I finish strong (and once everyone else but my team has gone home).

For the next eighteen plus years I repeat this to myself multiple times a month. It reminds me that it’s not about competition, it’s about doing your best, whatever that means to you. Like what you like, love who you love, keep moving forward. Run your race and no one else’s.



image via Soda Head

7 Comments leave one →
  1. karen aka eyeball permalink
    March 6, 2012 6:40 am

    There is something about your writing…I can hear it, smell it, shit like that. I’ve never had that before. I don’t know what to do with it but…thank you THANK YOU beautiful!

  2. aka eyeball permalink
    March 6, 2012 10:25 am

    Ever write dark and twisted? I read something on dirtyballerina… That is you, correct?

  3. Paige Sanderson permalink
    March 6, 2012 2:55 pm

    ” Like what you like, love who you love, keep moving forward. Run your race and no one else’s.”

    I seriously needed this yesterday, in the literal sense.

    Every day, I spend my lunch break on the treadmill. I’ve been doing C25K – in fact, this is my second time around – and I’m at the point where I should be able to run for 20 minutes non-stop. And for the life of me, I can’t do it. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I guess I’m just not cut out to be a runner. Anyway, some days I feel good about what I accomplish on the treadmill. Yesterday was miserable. I only ran 2 miles in about 30 minutes. I was so dissappointed in myself. In fact, I tweeted that “Today, I am not a superhero.”

    But I read this post and I am reminded that the alternative is much worse. I could have skipped the treadmill. I could have eaten a cheeseburger and sat on my ass for the rest of the day. The point is, I’m doing something. I’m being active. I’m running my race, even if I come in dead last. At least I did it. 🙂

  4. March 6, 2012 11:41 pm

    I did track in high school as well–I hate running as well. I don’t know how I did it for two years. After I graduated, I realised that I missed it! It was so strange. I missed the competition with myself–to see how far I could go and how much I could improve.

  5. March 7, 2012 4:26 pm

    loved this one! truly, madly, deeply.

  6. Average Genius permalink
    April 1, 2012 9:51 pm

    You’re sense of humor seems familiar…reminds me of myself. Educated smart ass with a hint of WTF?! I like it!

    Also, a few of these comments border on scary, but you know you have a good following when you start to get stalkers! Lmao

  7. August 15, 2012 9:21 pm

    I ran Cross Country in 9th grade. I don’t know why, because I’ve always hated running, while enjoying countless other sports and activities. But we didn’t have a water-ski team; I didn’t know how to play basketball; and I was nowhere good enough for tennis. My teammate, Karen Morocco, was #1 in the state. I had no such aspirations, but I figured running along behind everybody wouldn’t hurt anyone else. At the very first meet, we were to run a 2.5-mile course through the woods. Just before we started, the coach said, “Now, don’t worry. All you have to do is finish the race. We have the minimum number of runners today, so even if you take three hours, we will qualify and Karen will keep her #1 ranking.”

    No big deal, right? I could walk or crawl, and it would all be fine. Well, a little over a mile into the course, I caught my foot on an exposed root that was jutting out on a downhill slope. As I began to fall, I made an awkward attempt to correct myself, resulting in a very bad sprain to my ankle and a cut on my head when I fell. All of the other runners had disappeared.

    My head felt woozy, as blood began to run down my face, and I had a throbbing pain shooting from my ankle, which had already begun to swell. I was pretty sure my ankle was broken, but I remembered the coaches final words — all I had to do was finish the race. Everyone else had long-since finished the course when I rounded the turn. Bloodied and limping, I had to limp-jog the last half mile. I could see the horror and humiliation on my father’s face as I set a new course record for slowest time. My coach came out and helped me with the last few yards. Truthfully, I probably would have been last in any case, but they just needed me to finish — and, by God, I finished.

    That was my last cross country meet. But Karen went on that year to finish #1 in the state and was offered a full ride to college. All because of me.

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