There is no speed limit or dream limit on the oval.
Coming in for that high five like my life (or lap?) depends on it.
It was opening week of official Wednesday workouts with the Arete Oakland-East Bay team. The first real “track Tuesday” night of my life was a win sandwich. Win: simply making it to track after fully psyching myself out. Fail: poor fueling all day resulting in a workout I heavily modified as the wheels threatened to wobble, but didn’t fall off. Win: being smart and simply making the most of it. And well, damn, did I enjoy running on the track.
Perhaps what Connie didn’t know as I came in for that high five — or maybe she wisely did — was that she said exactly what I needed to hear that night.
In my head and my heart I’ve always wanted to be downright, unarguably FAST. I raced every girl or boy in grade school who wanted to throw down, and hated losing with a passion. I was the first ponytail and training bra-clad one to hit the soccer field with the boys, and I had better endurance than a lot of them. I remember bristling with healthy competition in junior high when I graced someone who always seemed to beat me on lap derby day (and I bet she’s still running strong.) In junior high and high school, I may have run track as a secondary sport, but it was there I got a wonderful taste of what it felt like to beat someone on the turn and come out on the straightaway three strides ahead.
What I didn’t realize is that while I’ve been running in some capacity my entire life, and running specifically for health, wellness and sport for years now, the whole time I’ve allowed myself to be complacent and have not recognized my own fears. This in turn has not allowed me to come face to face with my scariest big dreams. More than once I’ve finished a race and wondered if I should have taken more risks, if I should have pushed harder, gone faster, played a little less safe. More than once a seed of doubt and regret has tried to steal my post-race high, and now I see it as rightly so. That seed has sprouted some truth.
The workout I meant to do (if I even understand it correctly) was essentially 1600s – mile repeats – at goal half pace for the first 1200, followed by a light recovery and a 10K pace finish. As I checked paces during what supposed to be the first of three sets, I saw times far faster than I thought I should have, especially if I was going to complete the workout. Glancing down down and seeing an 8:40 pace… then an 8:10 pace, a holy ovaries is that a 7? yes that’s a 7!waaaay to fast 7:43 pace… But it felt good. Was I even trying to hit or control my pace, and if so, what the hell was I aiming at?
Really, I was just running. I was letting my legs go. They were doing what they wanted. In my head, I was trying to remind myself this workout was supposed to be goal half pace and with a sub-2 PR, that pace is basically sub-9. It feels crazy to say, but why couldn’t I reign it in and go slower?
As I came in for the high five, feeling like crap, yet my heart still wanting more, I kept saying, “Too fast! Too fast too fast!” As I turned the corner Connie called after me. Her exact words escape me but she reminded me I was safe on the oval, and it was okay to make mistakes. Something about her words let me let go in my head and try to make the most of my run. I tried to pull back in the turns and let go in the straightaways. Allowing myself to revel in the piercing stadium lights, the lane lines that felt like my old midfield soccer home, the straightaways that called to my legs, “Go on. Try that knee drive. Let the stride out out. Remember how strides feel, how the rhythm of that final kick makes your heart flutter? You could have that, better, longer, stronger, faster. Baby gazelle, baby gazelle, come out and PLAY!” My legs finished and wanted to prance like just-broken Thoroughbred, sore and tired, yet itching for more. Yes, again. Again! I can feel it calling.
It wasn’t a race. I wasn’t going to DNF. There weren’t hundreds, thousands of people there to see me if I fell broken by the side of the course. The comparison trap wasn’t going to get me. There were three people there who knew me, and they were there because we are a team. It would be okay if I blew it—but I would never know unless I tried to shoot for the moon.
Lookout, moon. I’ll be coming for you.