The End Of My Track Career

5 May

It is hard to believe that there was a time that I was excited about the idea of me typing that title.  There was a time, many many Joes ago, in which the idea of not putting myself through the heat and cold and being able to stay inside sounded amazing.  “You are telling me I DON’T HAVE TO RUN AGAIN! :kicks stereo, Walking on Sunshine plays:”.

But of course when we age, we realize how we were dumbasses in high school or in some cases, the beginning of college.  I never “loved” running per se but I loved the whole team aspect of it.  I also thrived off the competition but when it came to track, it just seemed like such torture.  Lap after lap, without an equalizer such as a hill or even road?  “SCREW THAT”.

However, over the past year or so, I realized how much I loved the sport of track and how my career took a 180 from the time I graduated high school until now.  Of course, if I wasn’t coming back for another season of cross country; this blog post would be filled with much more tears than usual.  But instead, I can be introspective while keeping a rather clear mind as I try to process my thoughts.

Anyway, how do I start something that’s over?  I guess I can tell you how it ended.  I’ve had my own problems with injuries since I was a junior in high school.  I never was a “soft” athlete but my knees and Achilles are sometimes prone to not cooperating with me.  I can go from running day after day after day to not being able to walk for a week sometimes.

This year, I got hurt right after shattering my PR in the 3k in February.  I got hurt right after I essentially got the flu for a week and didn’t fully recover until early April.  The minute I started getting healthy from illness and my workouts started getting more and more closer to my goal; my knee acted up.  At first it was something that hurt during the run but would only REALLY hurt afterwards.  Then it became a pain that didn’t allow me to run for more than a minute.  It became something that permanently ached, one that the most intensive stretching I’ve ever received could not remedy.  Sure, I stayed in shape with the elliptical but man, I could not run.

Then as the month progressed, I started testing out the knee.  Somedays it would god awful, others it would be a breath of fresh air.  Deep down, I knew that there was no way I would be competitive but I strived for one goal.  To wear that Kutztown uniform one more time on the track.  To one more time go through the “get off the bus and collect all the food to bring into the meet” routine.  One more time run a cooldown and cough for the next three hours.  One more time to get on the bus when everyone is hyper and then pass out until dinner and then reawaken one more time.

All of those little things man, that’s what I wanted.  Was it closure I was looking for?  No.  My goals that I strived for every year since my freshman year were not coming to fruition.  I wasn’t getting that “fairytale ending” that most seniors strive for.  That extra “mojo” wasn’t going to put me over the edge.  I was just looking for an excuse.  An excuse to just go through the motions one more time and to just race my guts out until I collapsed.  In other words, I wanted a time machine.

But suddenly, a “miracle” was happening.  I was doing workouts, in not great shape at all, but hitting times that I would hit when I was peaking.  I didn’t feel great doing it but damn, I was actually hitting the goal times.  Suddenly I had an idea that maybe I can race just one more time and maybe actually pull of a halfway decent performance.

Instead, I wasn’t taken to the next meet.  Not because of fault of myself or my coaches, but for simple timing.  Its the week before conferences and even I agree that the focus should be on making sure everyone is sharp, not giving someone a little sendoff.  For about thirty minutes, I was content with everything and then it kind of hit me later on.

I was done.

As of right now, my career of track is nothing but a memory.  There will be no more goals to obtain.  There will be no more times to try and qualify or PR.  Sure I will run afterwards but does anyone expect a mediocre post-graduate athlete to be in better shape than they were in the middle of their college training?  I’m not someone that can handle running slower than my old self and the idea of competing and not being successful compared to years past, would irritate me.

As of right now, I will not have an injury again because of track.  I will not have to wake up early for a meet that I am competing in.  I will no longer cram into the Golden Bear Room or hear Coach start a talk about our goals for the season.  I will not hear a Coach White speech or give a few people “one clap” for hitting the qualifying standard.  I will no longer see Eli Weeks or Jon Byrne run an Adelphi.  I will no longer have stories to tell of years past as the current junior class prepares to be the “keepers of the tales”.  I will no longer hear Coach’s voice crack when someone starts kicking ass on the track.  I will no longer try to keep fast food purchases to under $8.  I will no longer show off to all the sprinters by bench pressing 90 pounds nor will I hang around after practice to see how the middle distance guys do in their workout.

I will no longer go to meets and freak out while waiting for the last race.  I will no longer hang by the Steeple pit and instead offer encouragement rather than hope people fall.  I will no longer sit in the heat waiting for the hammer toss to be completed and never knowing whether to cheer or not cheer.  I will no longer ask a random teammate “how’d ya do today” to hear how my teammates are doing.  I will no longer eagerly check DirectAthletics to see the Performance List.

This is what I ended up missing.  All of these things are going to be removed from my life in some capacity.  I will be nothing but a memory that fades into someone people don’t talk about anymore.

That’s what we all crave for deep down.  Everyone wants to be an All-American or an award winner but we know the likelihood of that deep down.  We know that no one really cares about the stories we say about people who long graduated.  All we want for is to be with the team again because you miss all of that the moment its gone.  Trust me, hearing your spikes hit cement will make you misty-eyed instead of rolling-eyed.  You take it for granted but its going to be gone one day.

Sports are like that.  There’s always a new generation and you can’t stay in the way of it no longer how long you wait.  Those freshmen will grow up to be mature….ish….and with any luck, they’ll tell a story about you that lives on.  That’s what we want though.  Once we are gone, we never want to REALLY go away.  We want to be there in spirit, via FB status or a hashtag.  We want to be revered come Alumni Weekends and have some sort of legacy.

I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with the end of my career.  Some have asked me on why I haven’t gone to many of the meets this year.  The honest answer is a selfish one…I couldn’t possibly stomach to be there.  It’s horrifically selfish and the antithesis to what makes a captain but when I would be at a meet hurt or whatever, I could always think “get ’em next year!”…now that’s not happening.  I apologize to you all, seriously, but I will be there to see the final PSACs of the Kutztown Golden Bears that I am associated with.

But boy, will I miss it once that final 4×4 is done.

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