Today, I ran my first cross-country race of the season. This particular race was different from all of my previous cross-country races because I ran on the Varsity team, rather than the Junior Varsity (JV) team.
I have been running and training hard this summer: on my own, at cross-country run-togethers, and now at cross-country practice. My hard work and determination to be the best runner I can possibly be has paid off, as I have already met one of my season goals: to run at least one Varsity race. I claimed my second-runner Varsity position at last Monday’s time trial, where I ran the most physically challenging, and perhaps best, race of my life. I knew that I could compete with (and beat) the other Varsity hopefuls (besides, Lauren, of course!). I pushed myself to my limits because I was determined to run on the Varsity team and to prove myself as a runner. Claim a spot on the Varsity team and prove myself I did. I ran a personal best time of 17 minutes, 11 seconds. I was proud of what I had accomplished, but at the same time, I was immediately nervous about running a Varsity race.
As the first meet approached, I was worried about keeping my Varsity spot, but I was also struggling with the idea of running on the Varsity team. I felt that I had so many expectations of others to live up to. I was running second as a Varsity team rookie, before Varsity veterans, and I felt as if there would be a very bright spotlight following me at the meet (and I do not like that attention!).
And now, my first Varsity race is over, and I have mixed feelings about it. Standing at the starting line and running the actual race both felt so surreal. I cannot say that I was super-duper nervous on the starting line but anxious to begin running. When the starting gun fired, I simply started running, and honestly, at that point in time, I did not have a plan for my race, except to run and follow the other runners. A Varsity race is a whole heck of a lot different from a JV race. None of my team members had ever even participated in a JV race, so I had no helpful, comparative information. The race was fast-paced (which, I suppose, is obvious!), and it seemed as if no one ever took a “breather.” I feel as if I ran the course, surging up hills and around corners, using the downhills, and finishing strong, but I never truly found my groove or a point in the race where I felt confident to pick up my pace and “play the game.” I did not have the same drive or motivation that I possessed during the time trial, which I feel is due to the unfamiliarity of the Varsity race atmosphere, my slight lack of confidence, my uncertain desire to simply be on the Varsity team and not stand out, and finally, not wanting to feel the physical pain that comes with pushing myself to my absolute limit. For that, I am disappointed in myself because I know that I did not run to the best of my ability. But, perhaps I ran my best under the nerve-wracking and surreal circumstance of running my first Varsity race.
After running my first Varsity race and experiencing these feelings after my race, I am motivated to continue running on the Varsity team. I am determined to run my absolute best in all of my races; not only will I be more satisfied with my performances, but I will help and honor my team members. I am also determined to claim, once again, my spot as the number two runner. I have goals to reach.
Not every race will be perfect, and today was one of those races. Today’s race, most importantly, was a learning experience. I am thankful and excited that I have the opportunity to apply what I have learned in upcoming races.