Curling up in Lane 4 and other thoughts at the track

It felt as if an old friend was welcoming me back. Ah, the track. It was time for the two of us to play together again, to pick up the game of early-morning speed work.

For the record, my first true track workout of the season was supposed to happen last week, but an icy overnight left the outdoor oval too slick for speed. On this morning, however, the weather was beautiful — crisp but inviting — and I was ready to tackle a series of 600 meter sprints.

At least, I thought I was ready. After jogging over to the track for the warmup and doing two striders to prepare, I looked at the track lane lines and felt my stomach flip. Nervous? I’m nervous about the workout? “That’s good,” running buddy Sue told me. “It’s good to be nervous. Gives you an edge.”

This is why I wish I could take Sue everywhere with me. I could be bleeding out my head and she would find a positive spin. Everyone needs a friend like that on their speed dial.

The workout consisted of eight 600 meter sprints. The first one felt OK and I hit my time. The second one felt OK … only I was six seconds slower. Six seconds slower? Even Sue made an “uh-oh” face at me when I told her my time. But here is the beautiful part about finding the outlet that leads you to your best self. Through my athletic journey, I’ve discovered perspective. My competence and worth and joy is not defined by the time it takes me to do an interval. The challenge feels good to me. Expanding my lungs, expanding my heart, showing up with gratitude and wonder — those are the benefits which count the most.

And so I kept going. In sprint No. 3, part of me contemplated stopping around 300 meters to take a short little nap. (What if I curled up in Lane 4 right now?) No. 5 brought that sensation of slow motion which often settles in during track workouts. It wasn’t until No. 7 that I had the sensation of pushing back the puke factor. I wanted to bag No. 8, but reminded myself it didn’t matter how fast I went, only that I complete it. I ran No. 8 two seconds faster than the workout pace. And I didn’t even feel like throwing up until the last 200. Score!

Before I knew it, the workout was complete. The sunrise over the track was beautiful and the blue sky sparkled on my drive home. I began my day with a challenge. The point was not to conquer it nor even survive. The triumph came in showing up, ready to try, not worried about the final results. That was the intention I brought to the workout as a whole and the intention I brought to each individual interval. My friend, the track, and I have some more catching up to do before we’re back in our rhythm. Then again, the thing I like about the track is that it keeps me honest, keeps me at the edges of my comfort zone. Some would characterize it as a love-hate relationship. To me, the track is the place where I grow the most. No wonder I cherish our time together.

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