24 September 2013

on the track at 4:45am

All I have to say is that it is fall, and I cannot step outside right now without instantly believing that all—ALL—is possible.

This morning I ran in a long-sleeve shirt and shorts, which is my favorite running outfit combination. I took that first deep breath of air that has a snap to it, and as I do every year, I thought of freshly sharpened pencils and folders.

Those school supply dreams would have to wait; later, I told myself this morning, when you get to the office, you can sharpen some pencils and file something away in a folder. For now, it's running time.

Speedwork time was more like it. It was 4:45, and I was on the track at Wheaton College, ready to do some 4x200s and some 2x800s, all in the hopes of breaking my best half-marathon time when I run my next race in October. If I can get my legs used to moving fast, they'll just keep up that pace for 13.1 miles, right?

I had expected to have the track all to myself. Did I mention yet that it was 4:45?!? And that I was at a college?!? No college student should be awake at that time, but I saw, out on the far straightaway, someone else running.

This was all I needed to kick my competitive spirit into overdrive.

You beat me here, person who is nothing but a dull blob out on the track? Then I will beat you running.

I took off down the straightaway, trying to remember the last time I was on a track.

I ran track in middle school for the Horace Mann Yellow Jackets. Our uniforms were maroon and gold, and my most lasting memory of that is almost dropping the baton in a relay once. The girl I was passing off to told everyone on the team that she'd heard me say a bad word at the almost-missed-handoff moment. I was—and still am—enough of a goody-two-shoes that this was major news/gossip to all the other 7th graders, and I spent the rest of the track season saying, "I did NOT say that word! Stop trying to make me say it now! I'm going to go read on the in-field until my race!"

Channeling middle school me wasn't going to help me run faster, so I moved on in my head to other memories of tracks: In high school, we had to run the mile every year, and my senior year, I ran it on the same day I was named to the Homecoming Court. And I ran it really, really slowly with a growing pain in my side.

On about lap 3, I thought: Well, it turns out that being on the Homecoming Court does not automatically make your life better and easier, contrary to what many Disney movies would like us to believe.

Just before the end of the mile, I must admit {although I'm not proud of it}, I thought: Should I really be forced to do this? I'm basically royalty in this school, and I need to stay at my best for my very full schedule of Court-duties over the next week. There's a cake walk to preside over and a bonfire to attend, not to mention planning how my hair will be done with that tiara in it. If I were real royalty, people would be running this mile for me, and all I would have to do would be clap from the royal box while drinking lemonade.

Almost-the-Homecoming-Queen me was obviously not into running, so I stopped thinking about her.

Besides, I was gaining on the guy, just by being my 31-year-old self who likes to get up early to workout and who will not allow other people to beat her at 4:45am.

As I flew past the guy—turns out he was not a college student but a middle-aged man—I sang out a quick, "Good morning!"

And even though I was 3 lanes over from the guy and even though I'm sure he had to have heard me coming {what with my heavy reminiscing about the Homecoming Court and how I don't swear}, he jumped about 2 feet in the air when I came by. I had become a creepy runner who scares people, when all I was trying to do was enjoy the cool fall morning—and beat that guy.

You know, when I say it like that, it kind of makes sense that he was taken aback by me.

But I beat him. Let's focus on that. As I came around the straightaway in front of the stands, I raised my arms in triumph and bowed to the crowd.

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