This year I have often stepped to the line mentally unprepared and unexcited to run: my mind concentrating on extraneous stresses, unrelated thoughts, and a myriad of other minutia. I have raced without my heart being there, without wanting to feel the wind rush past my ears. I have raced while seemingly forgetting the reasons I chose to run.
What are those reasons? Honestly, for most of this season I no longer knew. I did not remember why I chose to run or how I fell in love with this sport. I somehow found a way to artificially remember how it felt to want to run, but that feeling has not permeated my limbs organically as in the past. Instead, even as I waited for the boom of the gun, I found myself wanting to watch others run.
To watch Carlo do what I have always wanted to do but never could, to watch Jackson make a run for sub-16, to watch Jenna’s fortitude and determination on the track. I have found myself entranced by watching you all compete. By watching Tanner convert from a pounding baseball runner to a 55-second 400, by watching Noah regain his pre-Wabash form, by watching Lex finally reach her potential.
This season I have watched you all because somehow it triggered a response within the abyss of my mind and reminded me why I wanted to run.
It reminded me of my excitement before the season. Of my excitement to accomplish the goals I knew would take a miracle to achieve. That sub-11 stands elusive, for now, and to this day I live in the shadow of my hand-held times from high school, wondering whether 11th grade Jacob would beat me today. It is a question I wonder about but honestly one that does not need an answer because right now it no longer matters.
This weekend is what matters.
This is the final time I will step onto Kenyon’s track, onto any track, as a varsity athlete. This culminates eight years of experiences, eight years of memories, eight years friendships.
This weekend is what matters.
And I will step out onto this track, I will stand at the starting line, and the experiences and emotions of those years will return to me and remind me why I run. I will not let these final races stand alone but rather exist within the pantheon of my track and field experiences: I will remember.
But more than that, more than my sadness at trotting off this track on Saturday, I will watch you because it will be the last time. It will be the last time to watch Willy emulate Pat, to watch Eric drink a milkshake right before a race, or to watch Kirkly run like Michael Johnson. It will be the last time to see Nat’s mustache flutter in the wind, the last time to see Lucas hurl the disc, and the last time to watch Hildy run with the courage of a certain tiger.
It will be the last time to shout Lords and Ladies through the Ohio air.
I see tears, I feel them too, but this is not a sad day. No! This emotion, this heaviness of heart, it assures me that track [pause] has [pause] succeeded. It assures me that everything we have done has meant something and that this here, this emotion that truly has no descriptive word, that this is this reason I run.
And it has taken until now for me to realize it. It has taken until now for me to understand why I run.
I run because of the wind rushing past my face. I run because of the feel of the track and burn after a race. I run for my coaches, both past and present. I run because running has come to define a part of who I am.
But most of all, I run for you: for all of you.
I am here because of all of you. I am here because of Coach First and Coach Gomez. I am here because watching this team develop has been inspiring. I am here because every teammate I have ever had has somehow shaped my experience, my love of this sport, and my devotion to watching each and every one of you succeed.
So I leave you with these words of inspiration, these words that miraculously emerged from the murky depths of my mind, these words that have helped me remember why I run:
“Fly today. Fly like you have never flown before. Let your legs glide and carry your mind far away from troubling thoughts and missed memories. Let your legs power you along the oval metaphor for life knowing that in this moment you are all that matters, that the finish line is but a destination, and that right now each stride upon the track is a manifestation of your success, your identity, and your fortitude. Fly like you have never flown before because you can, because nothing is holding you back, because when dawn rises you will smile knowing you accomplished great deeds and succeeded in what you set out to do.”
So go out this weekend and fly. Do not fly for me, but for what makes you want to fly, for the reasons you are here. Fly because you still remember why it is you run, jump, or throw. But most of all, fly for Kenyon. Fly for Kenyon because each and every race is a gift, an opportunity to stride forth and declare that this is who I am, an opportunity to look yourself in the eyes and compete harder than you ever have before.
So let’s go out there. Let’s run. Let’s fly like we’ve never flown before. And in the words of a wise sage, let’s go out there and “shock the nation!”