If I had known in high school what I could have done with the natural athletic ability I was blessed with, I would have never quit the team, walked off the track, out of the locker room, and into a place I didn’t belong. I think about the running dreams I could have accomplished and it makes me very sad that I threw it all away. But at that point in life, it meant nothing! I certainly didn’t think quitting was that big of deal, and all those goals I had of breaking school records, I didn’t think twice about them.
Well, that’s not necessarily true, there were a couple of times during my high school years that somebody would bring up track, or I’d meet a coach who would ask me if I was a runner, and when I would say, “No,” their response, “Well, you look like you’d be a great runner,” did sting. But, I never let it sting long enough to think, maybe I should get my life back on “track” and become the athlete I was meant to be!
At the end of my senior year in high school I had decided to go to Taylor University. I knew a small, private, Christian school was just what I needed. I wouldn’t have been able to survive at a state school. I was happy to leave my past behind and start with a new beginning. I loved Taylor!
During my senior year, I was working out at the student health club and I noticed a flyer for the Indianapolis half-marathon. I thought to myself, “Hmmm…I used to be a runner, I bet I could start running again and do a half-marathon.” Plus, it would be great motivation to stop smoking (a habit I had picked up in high-school and still happened to do on occasion.)
After a couple of weeks of running on the treadmill, I told my roommate, Heather Beck, my plan. She was actually on the Taylor track team. One day when she was getting ready to go to practice she told me I should come with her and run with the team. There was no way I was going to do that. I certainly couldn’t keep up with the long distance runners. I mean, I had just started running again, not to mention I used to run 200s and 400s, so running miles was something entirely new for me. However, after a few days, she convinced, and as nervous as I was, I went to run with the team.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it was running with a group, the camaraderie these women shared was amazing. The fun they were having, while they were running, was inspiring. I wanted to continue to be a part of this community!
I started to run with them and when we were done getting in the miles, they would go to the locker room, talk to the coach, etc. etc. and I would go back to my dorm room, shower, and meet them for dinner.
One day, when we were finishing up a run, the track coach approached me and asked what I was training for. I told him the Indianapolis 1/2 Marathon. He told me that I should continue to run with the team, and not only that, but a great way to get in shape for the 1/2 would be to run the 10k in the conference meet. Absolutely, not!! I had never run more than a lap around the track in a meet and there was no way I was going to put myself out there at a college meet and run a 10k!! The meet was only a week or two away, and somehow Coach convinced me to run.
The day of the meet, I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know what to expect. One of the girls told me just run and don’t look at the lap counter. How could I not look at the lap counter! It was right there at every turn and it was so obvious when they would flip it over to show how many laps were left. Despite that, the race felt great. It was exhilarating being back on the track and competing. I didn’t win the race, I didn’t even come in second or third, but I did post a time that qualified me for the National Meet the following weekend. Which just happened to be the weekend of the 1/2 marathon.
It was obvious that I would run in the National Meet. I would never get the chance to compete in a college meet again and there would be more 1/2 marathons to run later. When I ran the 10k at Nationals, it was very, very challenging. I wasn’t recovered from the conference meet. I had teammates on the side who were encouraging me to run hard and race well. However, if one of those teammates had said, “It’s okay, you look tired, you can stop if you want too.” I might have very well given into that! It was brutal! But, I did finish. And, despite a race that didn’t feel great it was still an amazing feeling to compete and push myself beyond my limits, and cross the finish line.
You can imagine my surprise, when I went to get my mail a week before graduation, and there was a track letter for me! I ran in only two track meets, 48 laps, and lettered in track!
I have to give credit where credit is due. The God of second chances and more. Even when we are unfaithful He is faithful!! 48 laps around the track, a second chance to make up all those 200s and 400s I had missed out on in high school. I was thankful to be given a another chance to train and race with the companionship of encouraging teammates, something I had given up years before.
Now, that I had graduated from college I was starting another new chapter in my life, but one thing I knew for sure was that running was going to continue to be a part of it.
Part 3…Road racing here I come…