The other night, I headed to my local track for an ass-kicking session of Yasso 800s.
Workout: 8x800m at goal marathon time, 3:45. My average was 3:41. And then I ate a lot.
At the track, two middle school-age girls soccer teams were in the infield for a game. There weren’t many spectators, but the event was louder than I would have given them all credit for. The girls were calling to one another on the field during play. Coaches and assistant coaches were yelling instructions and criticisms (WHERE ARE MY TWO DEFENDERS!?). Some parents were yelling and cheering, too.
It was barely-contained chaos. It was a reminder that I’m glad I never played team sports because I couldn’t stand so many people yelling at me while I was trying to focus. Back in high school, my coach roared like a bear, but running is considerably less multi-directional than soccer and much simpler (not a synonym for easier). And the directions in track and cross country were much easier: GO FASTER!
The girls played and scored goals as I ran 16 laps in lane 4 around that red track. Bored siblings wandered around the grounds with all the aloofness you could expect from a teen. Another girl and her friend dragged around a confused Weimaraner puppy. Parents stood on the track, slowing backing from lane 1 to lane 4 and scooting back in as I came closer.
Chaos around me.
Then I realized what I was doing was also barely-contained chaos. It’s been 9 years since I’ve raced on the track, and I’ve only been back on it a handful of times for workouts.
Since graduating from high school and leaving those 400s and 1600s behind, I’ve learned my greatest running strength is in races 10 miles or longer. The meditative grind of long miles is what I truly love about running and racing. The frantic, arrhythmic speed of the track or even a 5K is unsettling to me. The speed isn’t quite all out, but I have to keep myself from going all out. Barely-contained chaos.
But in my last repeat, as I hit 200 meters to go, I started to move. With 100 meters left, I sprinted like I hadn’t in a while. As I flew down the track with that unrestrained speed, I remembered why I had loved the track.
I can’t say I love running short distances and I’ll never love 5Ks, but sometimes it’s a lot of fun to let loose and fly.