Here is an accurate representation of what everyone thinks I do when I talk about running.
I hope that was funny because it really seems accurate to me. Anyway, in high school and sometimes still in college, the phrase “Track or Die” is usually shared among runners after tiring workouts, painful races, an excuse out of weekend plans, and just about anything surrounding track. Why? Because that’s exactly how it feels. We give almost everything up for a sport we could not live without. And that goes for any athlete in any sport, I’m sure. It takes a lot of dedication, perseverance, commitment, and passion to do what we do.
So is it worth it? I think so.
Today, my teammates and I had a very successful meet at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI. Almost everyone ran a personal best, Nicole qualified and set the indoor 800m record, I broke my own 400m school record, and you could tell that everyone gave it their all on the track today. We took hilarious snapchats and videos of our coach with silly filters, we danced when our favorite songs came on during the meet, and the best part, dove into some delicious pizza grinders from Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders before we made the long ride back to Cougtown. It was a long day, but I was completely grateful for it.
A year ago (here she goes talking about life… I know), on January 28th, I wrote an apology to my body. It was an apology for abandoning it’s warning signs, failing to fuel it, for being cruel and picking and poking at it, for starving it, and for not giving it all that it truly needed in order to be healthy. Yet, I continued to ignore it, pressed my way through each tiring day, and let myself be stretched by all the things that were pulling at my attention. At one point, I finally gave up my dedication to track. My mental health needed my attention a little more than most things and I figured after last year’s NAIA Indoor Nationals trip, I was probably done with track for good. Seems dramatic, but I didn’t think I’d find the passion for it again. I no longer felt like a runner, I didn’t see a purpose for me running, and removing myself completely seemed like the only logical thing to do.
After some months of fully recovering, fall was approaching and the question of running again pondered my mind. The thought of it made me a little nauseous so I continued to avoid the question until it finally felt right. I waited until I knew I wanted to do this again for me. As much as I love making others proud, this decision wasn’t up to anyone else. Not my coach, not my mom, not my teammates, no one except me. And I had to believe that before I decided anything.
“Coach, I want to run again. I think I’m ready.” I was ready because I decided to run for healthy Rachal, strong Rachal, brave Rachal. I was ready to prove my body wrong. Ready to prove that I can take care of myself, heal myself, build a stronger self and to see what a healthy Rachal can do. The thrill of running was back, I look forward to practices, I dream of my races, I’m attentive to my body and it’s signs of strength and weakness, and for the first time in my entire track career, I really feel like I’m doing this for me. I feel the drive more than ever, want to succeed my goals more than ever, and realize how much this has shaped me into who I am, more than ever.
Running track has graced me with many life lessons, given me loyal teammates, inspirational coaches, and the perseverance to face any adversity. The ability to run is a gift that I fail to realize sometimes. It is a gift that helped me choose life, to be healthy, to be strong, to be brave.
So is it worth it? It is.
“Track or Die”