Track Races and Finding My Inner Sprinter

I ran in the Summer Nights Track & Field Series last night in San Diego. 1,500 meters. Came through 800 meters in 2:36, only 1 second shy of my plan. Wanted sub 5 minutes. Finished in 4:58.66. These 43-year-old legs ain’t got the speed they used to have, but I executed the way I wanted to, so I’m satisfied. My time was 30 seconds slower than my PR, but I’ll take it for now.  

Racing 1,500 meters

1500m-7-20-16

That guy in the blue behind me used to weigh 260 pounds and would eat four double cheeseburgers for lunch. Now he does triathlons and has run sub 3 hours for a marathon. Truly inspirational. His story is in my next book, Run Your Fat Off, which comes out in March. Be sure to check it out.

The moments before a track race are some of the most anxious moments of my life. They are filled with a kaleidoscope of feelings—nervousness, hope, doubt, excitement, fear, and confidence all at once. Those moments make me feel alive. 

Since this was the final track meet of the summer series, I decided to run the 400 meters about an hour after the 1,500 meters. I haven’t started a race from starting blocks in many years, but it’s fun to race such a short distance. I have always been enamored with speed. From the time I ran the 50-yard dash as part of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test in fourth grade, I knew I liked to run fast.

But on this day, I wasn’t. I got dusted by kids 20 years younger than me. Too many years of aerobic training made me feel like a distance runner trying to sprint. Ran 6 seconds slower than I did in eighth grade. But waking up those fast-twitch muscle fibers intrigued me. 

Racing 400 meters

400m-7-20-16

Unfortunately, most people shy away from fast running and track meets. Perhaps people think that if they are not fast to begin with, running fast is not for them. People tend to associate speed with being an athlete, and many (most) people don’t see themselves as athletes. But we all have athletic tendencies, even if they are buried deep within us, because we are all animals.

[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]We all have athletic tendencies, even if they are buried deep within us, because we are all animals.[/tweetthis]

Except for the few people who have the ability to win races, racing is not about winning. Sure, it feels good to win. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a number of races in my life, all of which were when I was younger and none of which were of any real consequence other than how good it made me feel. I fell far short of the Olympic dreams of my youth. No matter what level of runner you are, running is about how much we can put ourselves on the line, literally and figuratively, to measure up against our true selves and to shorten the distance between who we are and who we want to be. When we put ourselves on the line and pledge to run as fast as we can, we become vulnerable. We expose ourselves to the one person we matter most to—our self.

[tweetthis]When we pledge to run as fast as we can, we expose ourselves to the one person we matter most to — our self.[/tweetthis]

Racing is the best example of living through our bodies. When we race, we push our bodies to their limit. Or at least we hope to. We are given the rare opportunity to act like an animal in the wild, running free and showing our inner strength, our inner runner. Racing, if we do it with our whole heart, forces us to face what is happening right at that moment, in a way that few other experiences do. We give it our all, and we get even more back.

If there is a track meet in your neck of the woods, run or jump or throw or vault in it. You’ll be glad you did. Next time, I may enter the long jump, another one of my favorites!

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