My first time on the UPenn track was in eighth grade. I ran the open mile. I had been on the verge of breaking 5:00 the duration of the season, working my way down from 5:27 to 5:15 to 5:09 to 5:06. The benchmark was calling in the distance, and on such a large stage, it seemed almost inevitable.
The day of the race was hot, and Franklin Feild offered no shade. This was the city meet for a Catholic Student Track club I was a member of. I sat down on the infield underneath a tent for an hour with my spikes on waiting for the race to start. I had done my normal middle school warm up which included stretching, light jogging, and fooling around. When we were all placed on the line, I was number 24 of 25, which was different for me, because I was the third best runner in the league.
|Pictured: Pain (I'm the one in the center in green).|
Around the first turn and the view changes from stadium seats to a large jumbotron fixed to an old building that doesn't belong on a stadium and would fit much nicer on an old train station or library. Instead this small castle was thrown on to one side of Franklin Feild to cap off the north end zone. The straights feel a little short, they might possibly be, and then you end up right back where you started: in front of a crowd that extends straight up a mountain of stands.
I did not break five on that beautiful track. I was not even close. I ran 5:26, a time reminiscent of the beginning of the season. I would not return to that track until Junior year High School.
Junior year, my 800 time was drastically improving. I dropped from a 2:10 to a 2:07 to a 2:04 and had earned a spot on the A relay for the team. I was the third leg, so arguably the weakest leg, and you would be right. But I was confident.
Or I was just strangely nervous. That morning at 5:00 AM I ate a klondike bar, then got in the car to go to the race. I would never tell my coaches that, but I was scared and thought eating it would help me be less scared? Calm my nerves? I don't know, but it happened.
|Here I am in the front!|
We warmed up as soon as we dropped our stuff off. We jogged around on the Astro-turf back where we entered the complex and came back with just enough time to wait around for an hour. We were the B heat, which meant we had to be shuffled around in between the A and the C heat outside around the stadium and along the closed off streets all in our spikes. When we finally were on the track, our warmup run was a distant memory and all the runners were cold and nerve heavy.
|There I am in the back.|
After that run instead of cooling down we made our way over to the bridge we walked in on to lay in the shade beneath it on a bed of grass so soft and fresh it felt like clean sheets.