The roar was deafening, my breathing was drowned out by the screaming fans, I could feel the crowd inside of my chest. As I came down the back stretch, I couldn’t feel anything or think anything. I felt myself smile, I felt a sense of disbelief. How did I get here?
Penn Relays is the biggest track meet in North America. As I walked into the stadium I felt like a gladiator. I looked up into the stands and saw 48,000 track fanatics that blurred into one big mass. The training had paid off, just one year earlier I was watching this meet fantasizing about being here one day. That day came.
From head to toe, inside and out I was donning the maple leaf, I felt and looked like I belonged here. Everywhere I looked I saw people who I once idolized and watched run on TV. They were people just like me, they were excited just like me, and some were even nervous just like me. Alison Felix, Sanya Richards, Debbie Dunn, all women I looked up to, I was now warming up with side by side.
I warmed up and went through the motions just like any other meet, but this time I felt like I was watching from outside. I felt fast and ready to go, my body was ready, but was my mind?
“Woman’s four by four relay please marshal in”. My heart began to race, it felt like a hummingbird was residing in my chest. “Play it cool Ese, you can do this” As they pulled us out onto the track I knew it was time. This was the real thing. As I stand and against the wall I tell myself I’m ready and its time to go.
Bang! goes the gun. Our first running takes off, she sets us up well. I feel like I’m watching on TV again, but instead I’m right there. The race unfolds in front of me, I see each exchange with great detail. I see our second running get bumped as she comes in, the baton crosses another runner and I panic. The pass gets off and as the third runner makes the first turn they line us up. Anchor leg, the position people remember, the leg the brings it home for the team. Third runner comes around the corner and I wave her down. We make eye contact and I giver her a re-assuring nod to let her know I’m there and she is doing a good job. As she comes in, I tune into her pace, I tell my self to block out everything around me and focus on her. As a reach out for the baton, something goes wrong, I don’t have it. I reach again, what’s happening! What are you doing Ese, grab the baton, don’t mess this up! I slow down to basically a stop and grab the baton, this isn’t good, how could this happen. This was no time to panic, once I finally got the baton I had a job to do. The first 100 meters is a blur, I know I took off and I also know there was some one right behind me, I couldn’t let her pass. I pushed out to the outside of the curve, if she wanted to pass, she would have to work for it. The came the back straight. As I came off the corner it was like I ran into a totally different world.
The roar was deafening, my breathing was drowned out by the screaming fans, I could feel the crowd inside of my chest. As I came down the back stretch, I couldn’t feel anything or think anything. I felt myself smile, I felt a sense of disbelief. It felt like I wasn’t running at all, but rather floating. With 150 meters left to go I started to pump my arms and give it all I had left. Fatigue never set in, instead excitement took over. I crossed the line with plenty left in the tank.
Even though I felt good, I also knew that the race did not go as it should have. The adrenaline, the excitement, the disbelief had taken over and thrown my race plan out the window. I don’t regret anything that happened in the race though, I can only learn from it. Being there and racing against those top notch athletes let me know I’m on the right track. The hard work is paying off, now all I have to do is learn how to handle the situation. Penn Relays 2011 is the beginning good things to come. Soon I will be able to add my own name to the list of women who I look up to now.