Recreating the high

“One more lap, Em!”

“Gotta speed up on this one if you want that time!”

“100 meters left!”

“Kick it in!”

…I can still hear them in my head. Yelling at me. Screaming. Coaches losing their voices and freaking me out in the process.

Faster, faster. 

Legs and arms numb. Clock ticking. Each second costing me a new record, title, or trip to states.

The only person who ever put pressure on me was Trevor (“You can go faster than that, Emmie,” he’d say). But I put pressure on myself. I wanted to make Dad proud. I wanted him to say “You go, girl!” I wanted more records to post on the non-existent record board. I craved the endorphins, the runner’s high. I wanted that oh-so-hyper-and-excited feeling I experienced after every race when I could breathe again.

I associated running with the painful knots in my back and the ever-present butterflies in my stomach. I popped pain reliever before each race and numbed my back with Icy Hot. I snapped at loud, immature teammates and tried to think about anything but the girls whom I knew were my competition. I dreaded every single meet on the schedule, some more than others.

But I did well. And I made Dad proud. And I set several records and went to states several times.

But I regret not having a better attitude toward running.

I am so jealous of the team my high school coach has now. I had to run with the boys; it looks like all of these high school girls run together. And they do races together in the summer. And they’re always smiling.

…I wish I could have had the opportunity for their enthusiasm to rub off on me.

Maybe I could have developed a better relationship with running. Maybe I could have had fun. Maybe I would have – gasp! – loved it. Instead of sitting here, missing that high but not wanting to go through the pain of recreating it.

They always told me to go faster. I wanted to slow my life down.

Now I want to go fast again. I just lack the wherewithal.

Stuck in the mud

I think I know what my problem is: maturity.

Several summers ago, I hosted a small bonfire. We roasted marshmallows and created our own ice cream sundaes to top it off. After awhile, my guests got bored just staring at the fire (I was quite content, I might add). They decided to play non-alcoholic Dizzy Bat, using a croquet mallet instead of a bat. They formed teams and spun around, then raced (or tried to, rather) to the waiting teammate. I looked on. It looked stupid to me. The idea of spinning around after consuming a giant bowl of ice cream did not appeal to me. I let them laugh. I let them have their fun. I looked on.

I think they could tell I wasn’t keen with the goings on. But here’s the problem: I really can’t help it. Something in me is programmed to dislike childlike behavior. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember.

Teammates at a cross country meet were throwing acorns at each other and laughing like maniacs. I felt embarrassed to be associated with them.

My junior and senior years, I never rode the bus home from track and/or cross country meets. Looking back now, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t. I missed out on a lot (if you count going to Burger King and wearing the paper crowns as a lot which, when with the right people, I do). It comes down to my maturity problem. Kids on the bus drove me insane with their ear-shattering cacophony on the way to the meet that I rarely desired to spend more time with them.

My maturity is a blessing in the eyes of the adults in my life, and a curse in the eyes of fellow teenagers. I am probably known as a stick in the mud; a fun sucker. I hear tales of drunken high schoolers. People laugh as they tell me about the wild parties going on and who kissed whom or who shed every article of clothing possible. I don’t laugh. I feel sad or disappointed, depending on the party of people involved.

Get some alcohol in me, and I can let go. But if I’m sober in a room full of drunk people, I’m not a happy camper. I can’t be sober and think a drunk person is funny at the same time. I can’t be sober and hear about who-did-what-with-who and not feel a little sick. The idea of drinking casually is more tempting than drinking just to get drunk (especially since the shit tastes vile, anyway).

So many times, I’ve asked myself this question: why didn’t I socialize and hang out more with people in my own grade during senior year?

The answer is Robby. He can be silly at times, but when it comes right down to it, he is the most mature young man I know. Any adult who knows him would agree with me. He’s a nice boy. He’s not the typical, just-wanna-get-in-your-pants 17-year-old. He’s a genuine, sweet and caring guy who proved himself to be mature right from the start of our courtship on February 21, 2010. We have always been inseparable until, of course, college forcibly drove us apart. My infantile peers just couldn’t match up to him. I didn’t want them to. Robby and I are 17 and 18 going on 30, respectively.

The people in my life like Katie, Robby, Kevin, Mama, Tayler, Caitlin, Sarah and Tori really know how to draw the silliness out of me. Everyone else in the world will just have to deal with the me who is stuck in the mud.

Except Nickelback, of course

I used to be genre specific. Well, I’m definitely not anymore. Thanks to my best friend, I’m really into country; a genre I used to put away in disgust. Now, I’m open to anything. Except Nickelback, of course. *shudders*

For example, I have 114 songs in my iPod’s “Recently Added” playlist. Therein lies the art of some more Vitamin String Quartet, The Beatles, Thomas Newman, Inara George, Psapp, Feist, A Fine Frenzy, Miike Snow, Snow Patrol, Au Revoir Simone, Bishop Allen, Architecture In Helsinki, Taio Cruz, Rihanna, Timbaland, Regina Spektor and Boys Like Girls. I don’t care anymore. Give me something, and I’ll listen to it.

For track practice the yesterday, we had to go out on a long run. Since I seem to be lacking in the running partner department, my best friend gave me her iPod Touch (knowing that taking my 160GB on a run with me would kill me and that I didn’t bring in my old 4GB nano), set me up for her playlist to play and then sent me off on my way.

She’s country (like Jason Aldean’s song). Downright country. She lives on a farm and in their barn, the radio is always attuned to the country radio station. In the morning, she watches music videos on CMT, when she comes over to my house she switches our kitchen radio to 106.5 and in the car she always changes it to her station. She’s the reason why I am into country music now, but my run with her iPod surprised me even more. I listened to every song on her playlist of choice that played, and found that I could tolerate – and even possibly liked – every song that played. It carried me through what would otherwise have been a long, lonely and painful run (let’s just say that Emily needs new sneakers). It was still painful, but it didn’t seem nearly as lonely or long.

I’ve got artists like Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Sarah Buxton and Lonestar on my iPod. At this point, I can go from Marilyn Manson or Every Time I Die to Lady Antebellum on shuffle without even blinking an eye. I uploaded every CD I owned from when I was little onto my computer and now have all of them on my iPod (yes, this includes Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Avril Lavigne, Nelly Furtado and Dixie Chicks).

I honestly just don’t care anymore. Music is meant to bring people together, not tear us apart. I will always love bands like Escape the Fate, Bullet For My Valentine and AFI, but they are taking the backseat for a little while. I’m busy exploring other genres and broadening my taste in music. It’s a wonderful thing.

The Lollipop

I was little. I was stupid. That’s all I can say to defend myself on this subject.

We were at the Cracker Barrel years and years ago when there was one near us, and before or after going in to eat (I can’t remember), we were looking around at all of the cool things hanging out at the gift shop. My mom and I were looking at the stand of huge, colorful lollipops and she lifted one out of its socket and asked if I wanted it.

I stupidly shook my head no. I was little. I was stupid.

I had this strange idea in my mind that little kids like myself weren’t allowed to have those giant lollipops. I must have thought there was alcohol in them or something. I couldn’t believe that my mother was offering me a lollipop – I shook my head to diminish what I thought to be her “bad” parenting.

Ever since then, I have been kicking myself for not accepting that lollipop.

So, after watching my friend Kevin run at the New York State track meet at Syracuse, we saw a sign for the Cracker Barrel. Since they have become sort of extinct in our secluded neck of the woods in Western New York, his parents decided it was a good idea to stop there for some ice cream. Instantly I exclaimed: “yes! I can finally get me a giant lollipop!” And then, of course, I had to tell them the story of The Lollipop. Well, instead of getting only ice cream we ended up having a whole huge meal (which I was totally okay with). Then Kevin and I were lollygagging around the candy section of the gift shop (with me singing “I’ll take you to the candy shop. I’ll let you lick the lollipop.“) and I picked out the identical twin to the lollipop my mom held up to me so long ago.

Two dollars and seventy-nine cents later, it became mine. I had this crazy idea that I would lick it once a day everyday to see how long it would last, but I have since decided not to do that (“then it would get all nasty,” said Kevin). Instead, it is sitting on the shelf of my desk, waiting for my tongue to begin its process of withering away into my mouth in a sugar-coated frenzy. I have yet to remove its wrapper and taste the sugary goodness within. Maybe I’ll never taste it. Who knows? Maybe I will just keep it for its sentimental value.

This shows how observant I am

I honestly am not a very observant person. I don’t recognize details (unless they’re important to me), and I almost never notice anything. Maybe this explains why I made a blunder today.

We had our first “real” Track meet of the 2009 season today. I got up in the morning with almost everything ready, but I needed to grab my cross-country hoodie from the dryer. I wrote a note to myself and stuck it onto my mirror so I would remember to grab said hoodie from the dryer.

Okay, so I remembered just fine without the sticky note, and I went downstairs and pulled my hoodie from the dryer. I put it on over what I was wearing and went along my merry way. I got to school, wore the hoodie for a little while, then put it in my locker before heading off to Health.

For our Track meet, I put on my uniform, my sweats and the hoodie. The opposing team we were to run against arrived just as I was stretching my hamstrings on the steeple. I figured they would see my name on the back of my hoodie and try to swallow their fear. You see, most teams see me as a threat. I fought back a laugh as I pictured the reactions upon seeing my name. Then, I went along with the meet.

The 4X8 went rather well, if I do say so myself. I got a rather decent split time (2:33), and got our team the lead we needed. We won that one.

It was after the 1500 and before the 3000 that I got a clue to my blunder. The 200m races were going on, and all of the people on the infield were to be crouching down so the officials could see one another from across the way. I didn’t think I had to crouch down – I thought I was out of the way. The officials yelled out to me, and then yelled “Hey, JEEVES!” and then when that didn’t work, “GOWANDA!” and, believe me, I crouched. The thing is, I didn’t catch the “JEEVES!” comment at the time.

After the 4X4, I pulled my hoodie back over my head. Suddenly I noticed that there was a rip near a hood, and it made me really sad. The hoodie had taken me through years of running seasons, and there it was, falling apart. I had also noticed earlier that it seemed more stretched out than I remembered, but I figured I must have lost a little weight. (Haha…)

My friend dropped me off at the baseball field to join my parents, and I walked up to them and said: “after years of hanging in there, this hoodie is finally falling apart.” Then my dad sort of looked at me funny and said: “you do know that you’ve been wearing your brother’s cross-country hoodie this whole time, right?”

Suddenly, it hit me. Everything made sense.

His hoodie says “Jeeves” on the back, and I realized that that was what the official had yelled at me earlier. It was obviously stretched out because he’s a little bit bigger than I am, and lastly, I did remember that his hoodie had sort of been tearing near the neckline. I blushed, said: “that explains a lot!” and then flushed with more embarrassment because of my cocky thoughts about how my opponents must have been “swallowing their fear.” What a joke!

If I had taken one quick glance at the name on the back of the hoodie, I could have saved myself from this little “incident.” I bet my friends were all wondering why I was wearing my brother’s hoodie, but they never said a word. I guess this just goes to show how observant I really am.

‘Tis the season

It feels good to be back in the swing of things. After taking two months off, I am back and hopefully will be better than ever.

Instead of going home to a TV chock full of possibilities and a cupboard of chips and unhealthy snacks, two of my best friends and myself go running everyday after school. After cross-country ended, we all sort of stopped. Now we have greeted running like an old friend we’ve missed greatly.

The feeling of running is like no other. That freedom; the endless possibility. The knowledge that though yes, cars and modern transportation are faster, our legs can also do the job just as well. Give us time and we will run for miles and miles.

Track is just around the corner, and I intend to make this year even better than last year (and last year was phenomenal for me). I feel great, running feels good, and the air just doesn’t smell as sweet as it does when you’re running. The heavy breathing, the struggling to talk to the person you’re running with – I’ve missed it greatly. I cannot wait for the Track season to begin. My intentions and confidence will take me far.

Tales of the Runner

“It is okay, Emily, you can do this!” I tell myself as I approach the 1500 meter starting line on Randolph’s pretty red track with over a dozen other girls. Questions of why do I do this to myself? and when does the torture end? enter my head, but I push them away and focus on the win I am aiming for.
I look down as I tug on my royal blue spandex shorts and see a white sticker with a big black “1” on it smiling back at me. Not a friendly smile, but a smile that reads: you had better prove that you deserve my presence on your hip!
I jump up and down a few times just to warn my heart about the five minutes of cardiac workout that lies ahead. The official tells us to take one step back and I call out a “good luck, ladies!” to my opponents who wish me well in return. He blows the whistle and disturbs the slumber of the earplugs that are around his neck as he puts them into his ears. Together we step up to the line and I swear that I can hear the steady staccato heart beats of the other girls around me.
BAM! The gun goes off, sending an urgent message to my brain. Run, Emily, run! I listen to what my brain tells me, and my legs move as I take off. “Get out there, Em!” My coach yells from the other side of the fence, and I listen to every word that he says. I tune out everything else that is happening around me and move into my own little subconscious world.
As I round the first curve, my favorite work out song replaces the little voice in my head. Let the bodies hit the floor. Let the bodies hit the floor. Let the bodies hit the floor. Oh yeah, some Drowning Pool! The music surges through my body, and I match my footfalls to the beat of the music in my head. I notice my parents and teammates standing up against the fence, but I cannot hear a single word that they are yelling out for me. My brain has taken over; my body is on autopilot.
I “turn the music down” and listen for the heavy breathing of one of my enemies right behind me. Surprisingly, I cannot hear a single thing – all I hear is my own breathing and my own footsteps. Comfortable with my lead, I “turn the music up.” ONE – nothing wrong with me. TWO – Nothing wrong with me. THREENothing wrong with me. FOUR – Nothing wrong with me. ONE! Something’s got to give. TWO! Something’s got to give. THREE! Something’s got to give – NOW!
BAM! The gun is shot again, interrupting the music in my head. This gunshot signals that the first place runner has only one lap left to go, the leader being myself. I pass where my coach is standing for the third time and realize that I only have 300 meters left until the race is finished. With “Bodies” in my head, I lengthen my stride and pick up my pace. 200 meters left to go. Nothing wrong with me! 100 meters left to go. I “lower the volume” in my head and focus on the red track that has been laid out before me. Okay, Emily, all you have to do now is go into a full sprint and finish this race once and for all!
Almost there! ALMOST THERE! The familiar feeling of having no control of my legs washes over me, and I just let them run. They are connected to my body, but I have no feeling in them at all. I cross the finish line in first place. Just like that, the race that I have been dreaming about all week is over. The 1500 meter record for my school is now mine, and I “turn off” the music inside my head. “Bodies” will not be necessary until my next race.
Breathing heavily, I bend over and attempt to catch my breath. My fingers brush up against something on my hip. I glance down and see that the “1” on my hip looks like it was made to be there.

Reunited

My father (the driver) stops the car at the intersection. In the back, I open the left-side door and hop out of the car before he starts driving again. “See you later!” I call. I run to the side of the road, and then enter the sacred grounds. The beautiful track is steaming in the sunlight; so warm and inviting. I run through the path between the bleachers and the fence to the track and note how many of the steeples are lowered to my height. Only one. Dammit! I shrug off my disappointment and step onto the brilliant black track.

I do not even know what my plan is. Just keep running and try not to run over the walkers? Sounds good to me. I walk over to the starting line and step forward as if a Track & Field official had just blown the whistle. In my head, an imaginary gun goes off, and my legs start moving. I round the curve and face my one and only obstacle: the steeple that is low enough for me to jump over. I count out my steps and successfully get over the steeple. Now, I look into the sun and run. Lap after lap, steeple after steeple, I finish my first four laps and decide to take a short break.

I stretch on one of the higher steeples and realize how much I miss having track practice everyday. Yes, it is a very stressful and nerve-wracking sport, but I love it so much. It keeps me in shape, and I enjoy trying to beat records that others have set, and of course, my own. I stretch my calves and my hamstrings as the walkers around me continue their workouts. Am I ready to go again? Oh yeah! Four more laps, then a break – that is my master plan. Three sets of four laps – and that will total three miles. All of those miles taking place on the lovely track.

Lap after lap, steeple after steeple, sweat droplet after sweat droplet. I finish my second set of four laps, and really begin feeling the heat. My feet are boiling from running on the hot, black track, and the sweat is pouring off of me. Stretch a little, and then do it again, one more time!

Lap after lap, steeple after steeple, sweat droplet after sweat droplet, foot pain after foot pain. I finish my third and last set of four laps. I feel great and secure knowing that I am still in shape. I practice jumping over the lone steeple and begin to cool off. One more lap, and I can call it a day. My last lap is now finished, and I walk on the path that separates the fence from the bleachers and feel complete. Goodbye, my beautiful track! And I slowly break into a jog and let my legs take me wherever they please.