In April of 2001 I ran in what I assumed would be my last college track meet ever.
|Pretty blurry but I’m on the far right|
|Just hanging out with some of my track girls after a meet senior year|
I had run cross country and track in high school and all four years at Harding University. I remember thinking at my last meet- this is it. I’m done. I was a little sad but I knew that it was time for this part of my life to come to an end. I was 22 years old, engaged to be married and about to graduate from college. I was ready for my future to begin.
Fast forward 13 years later. Obviously A LOT happened during these momentous years (including getting married and having kids) but this is a race recap so I will stick to the running. 🙂
After my 5K Saturday morning we went home to shower, change and eat lunch before we headed back to the track to watch some of the Harding University home track meet. We knew some of the students participating and we wanted to support them. Also, we’d never taken our kids to a track meet before and thought they might like watching some of the events.
I’m not exactly sure how it all happened (although I know my husband and another family friend had something to do with it) but I was invited to run “unattached” in the 5,000 meter race at 4:50. My first thought was- another 5K? I had just raced two 5k’s the previous Saturday and knew how hard that was. Could I do it again? I knew my earlier race had taken a lot out of me but how could I say no to an opportunity like this? How many people are presented an opportunity to go back in time to do what they love to do? I didn’t want to miss my chance. Was I scared? Yes. Nervous? Absolutely. Did I think I could get lapped or come in last? I sure hoped not but it was possible.
So with about 2 hours to prepare we went home again and I dressed to race. John assured me that my time wouldn’t matter. He was just SO excited about this race. I still wanted to do well and stay in the right pace range. I knew the morning race and extra mileage had taken its toll but I needed to pull it together for one more 5k. Never in a million years did I imagine I would be running at a college meet with college girls again. And yes, I said girls because 18-22 sounds so young to this 35 year-old mom who is almost twice their age. (When did that happen?!)
When we got to the track I had about 30 minutes to get ready. I didn’t want to warm-up since my legs already had over 10 miles (from earlier in the day) on them. I did a slow half mile warm-up and some strides and hoped that was enough. I checked in at the main tent and when it was final call for the Women’s 5,000 meter race I headed to the starting line.
|I’m on the far left- on the outside lane|
John was going to be standing on the corner opposite the finish calling out my lap splits to me. Ironically, this was his first time to see me race in a college track meet. (We were engaged my senior year but he was living in California at the time so he never saw me run in a track meet.) The kids were sitting in the stands with friends near the finish line so I knew I’d see them every lap around the track.
Mile 1- 5:55. When the gun went off I tried to move in fairly quickly since I started on the far outside lane. The lead pack had about 6 other runners and I stayed in the back of them. There were times when the pace felt a little easy and I was tempted to move up but whenever I looked down at my watch we were right on pace in the high 5:40’s or 5:50’s. They were hitting all the right splits so I just stayed tucked away behind them. I knew I needed to be patient and bide my time. I needed to save it for later because 12.5 laps is a long way to go. Can I just add that it felt really strange to even wear a GPS watch. I never wore one in college- I don’t think they were even around then?? Now I cannot imagine racing without one.
|I’m in the back of the first pack (*All track photos are courtesy of Kerri Behel)|
Mile 2- 5:59. I knew the lead pack was starting to slow down and some of the runners were falling back so at the end of this mile I started moving up to the lead.
I should also note that my kids were screaming “GO MOTHER!!!” and their friends with them were screaming “GO MISS TIA!!” every time I passed their side of the track. It was awesome and by far my favorite part of the entire experience.
Mile 3- 5:53. When I took the lead I picked up the pace a little. I knew my best chance of winning was to widen the gap between the second place runner and I.
I gave it everything I had and my last full lap was actually my fastest but I could not hold onto the lead. My legs would not move any faster and in the last 50 meters she sprinted passed me as if I were standing still. (The last .19 on my watch was a 5:16 average pace and she was going a lot faster than that!)
3.19- 0:59 (5:16 avg). I guess I was running a little extra when I moved from the outside lane in and then moving around people later in the race??
(Garmin avg. 5:54)
Official Finish Time: 18:48. 2nd place.
After the race I congratulated the winner- she had a great finish kick. Then I got some water and jogged a really short cool-down. I was ready to sit with J and the kids and be a spectator again. John was thrilled.
My college comeback was brief- lasting just over 18 minutes but it was an experience I will never forget. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to put myself out there. There were times during the race when I was running with a pack that I thought to myself “How cool is this to be running with a pack of girls going the same pace as me?!” I loved it. I’m pretty sure I NEVER thought that in college. Back then I had teammates to run with every single day. These thirteen years have definitely given me a different perspective. It was a very special race to me and having John there and hearing my kids cheering for me from the sidelines was the best part of it all.
Who knew that my favorite college track meet would be thirteen years AFTER I graduated?