Thursday, 7 June 2018

Somebody told me when I came to Nashville...

Introducing this blog's alternative title; Running like a Boy

Guys, I've been to Nashville! This immediately makes me quite a bit cooler than I used to be. Last weekend was outdoor nationals (we're not going to talk about that disaster), but a guy called Dave who runs a really cool meet (the Music City Distance Carnival) in Nashville got in touch to ask if I wanted to run. For complicated reasons, Coach couldn't really take me, so through Dave found someone to drive me, and someone to host me. It was a little stressful basically going hitch-hiking on a 600 mile round trip to a place I'd never seen before, but it turned out to be the coolest trip I've ever done. 

Kevin, the guy who drove me, was a really cool dude. We met up with one of his friends in Chattanooga (a really cool place, it looks like a cowboy town) for dinner on the way up and a run on the way home. He took me to Waffle House (kinda like the American equivalent of the Little Chef, but more infamous) for the first time... we survived! 

Obviously not as bad as everyone says after all #salmonella

And then he and his wife took me swimming for the afternoon in a lake just outside ATL on the way home. The lady I stayed with was called Mary Ann, and she is just how I want to be when I grow up. She was so sweet, she had a beautiful house, she fed me lovely things, she gave me coffee, and she took me running with her running friends (they all do marathons- they're incredible). One of her friends, Chris, also has a beautiful house with a pool so she was very kind to us and let us hang out at her house all Saturday... so I have a tan! Miracles do happen. Chris was also hosting runners, and in her house she had the guy who won silver at the 2012 Olympics in the 1500, so I have shared a swimming pool with an Olympic medallist. Pretty cool, right. 

This was the really awesome thing about the race- it seemed pretty low key and chilled out, but a fair few of the event winners were Olympians. The men's 600 was won in a world-leading time (faster than the British record). The women's 800 had the first three all run 2 minutes flat. Hannah Segrave ran, she did 2.02 and she was very far near the back. A kid called Brodey Hasty ran the second all-time fastest time for a high-schooler in the 3k; he did 8 minutes flat, and he had the Olympic 1500 guy as one of his pacers. I ran the 5k, I was very slow, it wasn't very good, but honestly at this point I've done so much track I don't mind. It was an amazing experience regardless, and I think I made some really nice friends. 

You're not seeing the one straight after this where I fell on my face

So, track. I've done some cool stuff. Outdoor is definitely my least favourite season, but this year has been more successful than last year was so that's a nice thing. Obviously I finally broke 17 for the 5k, although I still think I could be quite a bit faster. I also took up steeplechase! Briefly. It's pretty good fun, but I don't think I'll do it next year. Hilariously, my 800 has probably been my biggest area of improvement this summer. I ran 2.14! In terms of 800s it's not that quick, but it's a lot faster than I ever thought I'd run! Even funnier, that actually won me the 800 gold at conference. 

Looking like a boy interloping on the women's race

I also ran a pretty good new 1500 pb at the Atlanta Track Club All-Comers where I made my debut as an elite 2k runner last summer. They didn't have a 2k this year, so unfortunately I was unable to pursue my preferred event.... I did 4.28, which was nice because I had been frustrated with the 4.33 I'd run earlier in the season. I shaved my head! I have no hair! Opinions vary on that, but I think it's pretty cool. I kinda thought if I run faster than half the boys I know, what does it matter if I look a bit more like them?

When the boy behind you looks more like a girl than you do...

So here I am, blending in. This was a really good race for me. Track 10k, I ran 35.03... sort of annoying because the dude on the inside of me just ducked under 35, and I ran a 20 second negative split, so I know there's more to come. Wirral AC Endurance Series, be very afraid! 

The plan for the whole season had been to try and win the South Region runner of the season piece of glass, hence the wide variety of different events I was doing. I hit the A standards in the 800, the 1500, the 5000, the 10,000 and the steeplechase, and in all of them bar the 800 I was ranked top five, but in the end I didn't get it, which was a bit upsetting, but there we go. Dad will tell me off if I do any more complaining about that. 

Maddie and I both qualified for outdoor nationals, so we got to do the super long drive down to Gulf Shores, where there's nothing vegetarian to eat. Since last year, they'd opened a new diner, which was about as American an American diner as anyone could ever imagine, and we had our food in a car! It was really nice having Maddie to train with this post-season, I got very lonely last year. 

Don't go to Gulf Shores, this is as good as it gets, and then it hurricanes

Before I start writing really serious stuff, I think the thing I've learned this year is just how important other people can be to your running development. Maddie is a constant inspiration to all of us; she works nearly full-time every morning, then does school, then does training, then has an internship, still has fantastic grades, is still an amazing runner and a wonderful person, and still manages to get enough sleep. She's incredible. Kalie also is a little tiger. Last year she really struggled with injuries and illness and it's been a fight to get back to running well this year, but she's been fighting like crazy and is still doing amazingly well. I read an article about Shalane Flanagan and how she built herself the team at the Bowerman Track Club to train with, and now they win everything, and I really think having a squad that you care enough about to work hard for has probably been the most critical factor in the success I've been having recently. 

This year has been fun, and I can hardly believe I've been here two years (I'm sat in the airport waiting for my flight home writing this), but it's definitely had some ups and downs. And the downs have been huge, not for me personally, but I think I've written before about how college sport over here is much more like a job than anything else, and some of the events this year have definitely hit that home. 

Cross country is a team sport over here. Track is too, but not quite as much. Cross country has individual winners, but you are judged by your team, you work with you team, you succeed with your team, you fail with your team- ultimately you are only as good as your team. And this year, our team was definitely lacking. I don't really want to sit here and whinge about certain people, they've messed up for themselves and hopefully will eventually come to realise how stupid they've been, but the point is that if you're being paid to run, you are expected to run. If you treat your opportunity like a good chance for a paid holiday and partying trip, you will lose your scholarship. If you decide going drinking the night before a major race is a good idea, you will lose your scholarship. If you fail your classes, you will lose your scholarship. Anything that would get you in trouble at work will probably lose you your scholarship. We lost five people this year (from a team of less than 20), some of whom I'm not sure deserved it, and some of whom definitely deserve worse than they got. 

I know this all sounds hugely serious, and it's been really sad for us to deal with. Running out in the US is a load of fun and most of us have a great time. And it's college; we all do some crazy stuff. But we are also being paid tens of thousands of dollars to do a job, so we have to take it seriously. No-one is saying in college you can't go out if you want to, but you do have to be prepared to work that around when you have to run. If your social life is your priority, college sport is not for you, and frankly if you just want to party and then do go take a space on a team, you are wasting it for someone who would work harder than you and you don't deserve it. 

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