|Scott Anderson's Olympic Trials On-Line Journal:
Part 7 - Freedom? Contemplating Life Without Running.
This is the seventh installment of miler Scott Anderson's Olympic Trials Journal. If you missed his eye-opening installments #1 or #2 or #3 or #4 or #5or #6we strongly urge you to read them before reading this installment as they provide background information which makes things a lot easier to understand (especially #1) . To make a long story short, Scott has spent much of the last 4 years preparing for the 2000 Olympic Trials, which he unfortunately didn't qualify for. Click here to be taken to Installment #1.
July 29, Saturday
Immediately after I ran 3:44.39 a month ago at Maine, I think I accepted that I probably would not qualify for the trials. I knew that I had one more chance at doing it the following week, but the fact that I was 4 seconds off of the time and that I had no excuse (I was healthy and felt good all day and the race was not tactical) painted a pretty clear picture that my season was done.
To my surprise though, when I woke up the next morning I felt free and more relaxed than I had been in recent memory and spontaneously thought about life without running. I haven't been able to think about a non-running life since my freshman year of college when I had no pressure and no expectations for my running. It was a feeling of having lots of opportunities ahead.
There are two components to that feeling of freedom: fear of not knowing what's going to happen and excitement about the possibilities. In the past year, I have often wondered what my reaction would be to the end of my running career. I imagined I would feel a huge sense of emptiness and lack of structure, but the morning after the race, and the whole week actually, I felt more excitement about possibilities than fear.
From being able to participate in such fun activities as a trip to the beach or a visit to my aunt and uncle's house in upstate NY to the grand task of redefining myself, I felt exited about my imminent freedom and the whole new world that was about to open up. Admittedly, I didn't know whether this enthusiasm was just a temporary defense mechanism, but it definitely put be in a better more relaxed state.
So I was almost disappointed the next week at the TC Williams high school meet, when I ran my first decent race of the season, winning the mile in 4:00.39. (I preferred the hand time recorded on the heat sheet, which read 3:60.0-was someone trying to tease me?) Although I had missed the qualifying time by over 2 seconds, it was the first race I had run since the Penn Relays 4*1500m relay leg where I felt like I had some juice left in the tank at the end. It meant that I had to get emotionally invested in running again, because I knew I could run faster.
So the last few weeks in California have been difficult, especially since I've seen all of my teammates, who competed in the trials, relax afterwards and talk about how their seasons are over (save for Rich and Bryan who both will be going to the Olympics). Not good for my morale considering I have more racing today.
Now that I am on the verge of what could be the last race of my career, I have mixed feelings. I felt great on Wednesday, when I ran 3:41.33, my fastest time since '98, and I know tonight, there will be a faster pace, as Jennings is rabbitting Stember and Lunn in their attempt to get the A time of 3:36.8 (Editor's Note: Jason Lunn ended up not competing in the meet).
So I know this is an opportunity to salvage the season by running a personal record, and I would obviously be ecstatic at the turn in my luck. In fact, I already am ecstatic about the 3:41 (I've run 3:42 at least ten times and 3:40 four times but that was my first 3:41), or I was for about an hour after I ran it. And yet I have mixed feelings about my situation and realize this is the cruelty and paradox of running.
You can't leave it on a good note because almost immediately after accomplishing one goal, you set a new higher one. And the only time you leave it for good without misgivings is when you are completely frustrated from injuries, lack of improvement, or other barriers. I had a taste of the freedom from having to worry about running that week after my bad race in Maine.
However, the mile at the TC Williams meet and the 1500m on Wednesday, though insignificant victories in the big scheme of things, have pulled me back into running, giving me hope that I really haven't met my full potential yet, reminding me of the best stages in my running career when I kept improving with each race and constantly felt good.
It's a similar situation to breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. You finally break up after weeks or months of frustration and then you find this new wonderful life without that person. But no sooner have you become happy with your new self than the ex starts calling again and the sweetness in his/her voice reminds you of the times early in the relationship when you were both in love. So now you have a dilemma. Do you dive back into the relationship and give it another shot or do you believe that you're being misled by yet another false promise and that you're in for another year of struggles and disappointment if you yield to that temptation?
After Wednesday's race, I raised my original goals for this stanford trip from breaking 3:42 and feeling good to getting a career personal record. But if I do that, it will be much harder for me to justify moving on. (Last night at dinner, Bridget Johnson, Rhodes, Mike Shroer (all teammates) and I talked about the different euphemisms you can use to describe the end of a competitive running career. We decided that quitting sounds, well, too much like you're a quitter. Saying you are retiring sounds too pretentious, as if you were making a press release to announce your departure. We decided "I'm moving on" is the best, although "hanging them up" is another good one that just came to mind.) Running fast and feeling good reminds me of the good things about running and reminds me of what I will be missing out on if I move on after this race. I'm getting ahead of myself, as I still have to run fast in 5 hours.Editor's Note: Scott did indeed run fast as he ran 3:38.70, a personal best of 1.4 seconds. Please feel free to email you comments to Scott at email@example.com. Lots of people have really enjoyed his journal and have inquired about contacting Scott and he said he'd be happy to receive any emails.