“Well I guess I kind of have to be …” I sarcastically mutter under my breath, not nearly loud enough for coach to hear.
With that, the pitter patter of our footsteps fills my eardrums and my brain as we embark on yet another rep of the day’s workout.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
The repetitive yet familiar pounding comforts me in a strange way, as I force my body to become accustomed to the sudden change of speed. My mind wanders into a slight panic — I worry that my legs cannot maintain this pace for much longer. The only constant is the sound of my footsteps, which I again shift my focus towards in order to calm the nervous energy coursing through my veins.
First lap down.
“That was kind of fast!” My mind tries to reassure me in this way: that the pain is not so bad after all — that you’re almost done. My thoughts continue to find other matters to set its focus on.
There’s the bird that lives in the rafters of Horton chirping away happily.
There’s the loud sounds emitted from the speaker, which cause the ground nearest it to vibrate.
Coach yells out splits: yet another noise attempting to drown out the others.
Then, almost suddenly, it’s over.
We’ve stopped running and my brain was too distracted to even realize it. For one brief, blissful moment, all is silent. All I can hear is the short, raspy breaths struggling to exit my body. I close my eyes and all the distractions, noises, and physical feelings fade into nothingness. All I notice are the breaths.
In, out. In, out. In, out. In, out.
When I open my eyes and regain feeling, my world is exploding with motion and emotion.
My teammates are sprawled around me in different stages of recovery: some lie on the ground with hands over their faces, others pace back and forth to prevent their legs from locking up between sets.
Coach busies himself relaying our times to our manager, who scrambles to keep up with his quick words.
Other members of the men’s team fly by behind me, still grinding out their set. Their breathing is heavy and fast, and their faces say it all: this hurts.
However, this is the pain that we live for. After all, many people can agree that runners have to be at least a little insane to put ourselves through the things we do. Even I recognize the ridiculous nature of the sport. Every day I show up to practice knowing that there will be some extent of suffering and that it will be difficult. At the same time, though, I absolutely love that. I know that every second I struggle will only make me that much better in the end.
I approach coach as these thoughts pass through my stream of consciousness. He looks up from his work at my teammates and I, and the all too familiar smirk flits across his face:
“OK ladies, let’s do that again — faster.”