View from the lane: enduring the pre-race

View from the lane: enduring the pre-race

Ava Nadel/Guilfordian

“I wish I could enjoy running like you do.”

As a member of Guilford’s track team, I have caught this comment already three or four times just this semester from people on campus.

The consensus seems to be that people love the idea of running but cannot stand the thought of actually doing it.

I do not really understand where people get the idea that runners are magical creatures who cannot feel pain. Sometimes, I wish I could go out and enjoy running too, like that imaginary person we all apparently think is giddily bounding around mile after mile. Maybe this person exists but only if enjoying running does not mean to do so effortlessly, which is not likely.

To give a real perspective on what it is like to be a runner, and a Guilford College runner at that, I want to give you a glimpse into a typical track meet.  This might seem the peak of glory and the aforementioned effortlessness.

You wake up at 4:45 a.m. on Saturday. This is normally when someone wakes up in mid-sleep to check their clock and then quickly get back into their slumber, but today is a special day. You grab your things and leave by 5:15 a.m. for a track meet. After a long car ride, you arrive at the track at 8:30 a.m., luckily in plenty of time for your race that is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

After arriving, you jump off the bus wobbly with equipment and settle into a grassy patch of shade or sun. You pick a spot, set up a tent with your team and lay down to save energy. Your options for entertainment: trying to sleep or eating. But, be careful about eating. Take a brunch break too late and you will be paying for it two hours down the line when your sandwich punches the inside of your stomach with each one of your pitiful running steps.

After four hours have melted away while you have tried to sleep and not eat with the bags of tempting foods that surround you, you rise and warm up for your race. You slog around for five minutes, take the first of many restroom breaks, jog around for 10 more minutes, sit down, stretch, jump around and then head back to the restroom.

You have got 30 minutes before your race now, but you still need to check in, something that I occasionally forget. Checking in is like taking attendance for a race. If you do not do it by a certain time, you will be “scratched,” or removed from your race.

After searching around for it for a few minutes, you make your way to the check-in table. The officials take your name and give you racing stickers. Put them on now and they’ll fall off the minute you bend your knees to sit or stretch. Put them in your bag until right before the race and you might forget them and earn yourself a disqualification and some very dissatisfied coaches.

So what do we do with the stickers? Do we put them on anyway and hope for the best? Do we put them in a bag and risk forgetting them? Do we just run around with stickers in our hand and obsess over not dropping them? The sad truth is that no one understands the sticker predicament. If you have an answer to any of these questions, please let us know.

Stickers aside, you still have to fill your quota of bathroom visits, and you have only got 20 more minutes of pre-race freedom. You jog, use the restroom, shake out, check the time, use the restroom then sprint to the starting line because your race starts soon.

But oh no. Where are your stickers? With relief, you remember they are in your bag on the side of the infield – you were smart and brought your things with you to the line.

The other competitors crowd the starting line and get in some last-minute shakeouts. The whole lineup jiggles like jelly. Some girls make idle small talk to try and appear amiable, forget about their nerves and the fact that you’re all about to be running kind of hard and that it is probably going to hurt a little.

If, under any circumstances, someone asks “What’s your PR (best time for this race)?” either beat them with a spare baton or glare at them bitterly because this is not information that they have a right to know in such dire circumstances. A subtler, realistic approach is to laugh it off and say, “I don’t know” or “who knows, I’ve never run this before.”

Then you make sure that they do not beat you.