You know that girl who gets tripped, goes down, and gets trampled?
That was me in my second collegiate race.
This past weekend Alabama XC raced at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational. We flew into Chicago, then stayed in South Bend, Indiana for a night. After some delicious pre-race pasta at Carabas, a night spent lying in bed in anticipation of the following day, and an hour of warming up, I stood on a fairway at the Notre Dame Golf Course facing less than twenty minutes of pain. I felt prepared. I felt confident. I fell.
Six hundred meters into the race, after (not even during!) an almost ninety-degree corner, I was on my way to a PR in the mile. Suddenly, the girl in front of me tripped and fell. At this point, we were all so close together that I was breathing down the neck of every runner in front of me, and being pushed on by every runner behind me. There was nowhere to go, and as Cox and Tkaczyk can tell you, I’m not much of a hurdler. I tumbled over her as she began to rise, causing a domino-effect falling of me and a few others close by. I face-planted into the soft grass, immediately sprawled out. My first reaction was, “What’s happening!” and my second thought, “Get up. Move.” Unfortunately, as I rose, a girl behind me attempted to hurdle me, hitting me in the back of the head. Again, I went down, covering my neck like you see in those earthquake safety videos. More girls flew by me, stepping on me and jumping over me.
At this point, like a voice-over in a movie, I could hear Coach Tkaczyk telling me to keep racing. As soon as I got the chance, about thirty seconds after falling, I was able to get back on my feet, but not without pain in my head and cuts on my legs from spikes. I started to let the emotions overwhelm me, ranging from scared, to angry, to distraught. I was so far behind my teammates, the pack, and where I thought I should have been racing. To be honest, I was borderline crying. Okay, definitely crying. It took me a full minute to get myself back together.
Something Tkzacyk always told me, and us as a team, at Coe-Brown is that we are the only ones responsible for our safety and our emotions. We are the only people that can help ourselves when we are feeling overwhelmed, emotional, or when something goes wrong. It was a lesson each of us learned through, many times, tears, and often, disappointing workouts. My coaches, my teammates, and my family cannot help me in the middle of race – but I can. I am the only person that has the ability to maintain my composure. That was an incredibly valuable lesson to have been taught, because that’s what got me through this race. Thank you, Coach.
The only thing left to do was run, and run hard. Picking off shirts one by one, I was able to move from ninth to seventh on the team, and ran an 18:12, only six seconds slower than at Memphis Twilight. Not bad for the circumstances. Seven hours later, as I sit in a hotel in Chicago writing this post, I am not disappointed in my race. There’s nothing I would have done differently given the same circumstances. The only disappointment is that I felt like I would have been able to run fast had I not fallen, and I would have helped contribute to my team in a more productive manner.
I chose to go into depth about this race and this moment because I feel like Notre Dame is a great lesson for me and for other runners. Whether it’s a bad race or a bad workout, and you fall, all anyone can do is pick themselves up again and continue to grind. Sometimes challenges are going to be thrown our way and the measure of our capabilities is not within what could have been, but the way we respond to what is – the action we take when we are down, and the poise in which we maintain throughout the challenges we face. I truly believe this defines an athlete, and can take a good runner and make them great.
Following the race, we cooled down and cheered on our boys. I called Coach Cox and my parents to describe to them what might just be the most face-palm worthy thing that I’ve done. On a side note, a notable New Hampshire alum, Eli Moskowitz, was also at Notre Dame racing! I cheered him on and then said hi to him as I ran by, after his race, but I’m not sure if he recognized me! Then, as a team, we loaded the bus to Chicago, where adventure awaited.
Over the course of the evening, we walked by and took pictures in front of the Trump Tower, spent an hour in an enormous Nike store, got dinner in the Tribune Tower, and ice from a Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. I can personally vouch for the cookies and cream ice cream. The next morning we woke up for a long run on the shores of Lake Michigan (which one girl mistakenly believed was the ocean) in torrential downpours. We got to run by the Sears Tower, of which the top was hidden in the clouds, and many small marinas. We were completely soaked, but running through Chicago, I felt like a little kid, amazed by the sights and sounds around me. I couldn’t keep my eyes on the ground.
We also got the opportunity to visit the Cloud Gate sculpture, or more commonly known as the Bean. While there, we met two people from Italy and Denmark, who asked to take pictures with us because we were American. After a little shopping on the Magnificent Mile, the shopping center of Chicago, we got breakfast and lunches to go at a small French pastry shop before heading to the airport to return to Alabama.
While Notre Dame wasn’t everything I wanted it to be, I couldn’t be more thankful for the experiences running for the University of Alabama has provided me with. Not only do I get the opportunity to race, and to continue racing, but to explore some of the coolest parts of our country. All in all, this weekend was a success.