This weekend I’m headed to California for the Payton Jordan meet at Stanford. Today had been a rare day where people in the airport actually recognized that we are the track team, and not volleyball, basketball, or something else. Even so, I’ve had to explain to every person I talked to why our team would bother traveling all the way across the country to race at a school that is neither in our conference nor our region. It’s hard to explain to some people, but every race isn’t a championship event or a conference match. Nonetheless, the Payton Jordan Invite is always a highly competitive meet where the top college and professional runners come together and run some highly competitive races, and there’s almost guaranteed fast times for the top finishers. This year, my goal at Payton Jordan is another PR in the 1500m just like I did last year.
As I was sitting here on the plane, en route to San Jose, listening to my newest collection of classical music, I couldn’t help but gaze at the breathtaking sunset and vivid orange and yellow clouds outside my window. There are two times I most enjoy flying; during sunsets and when traveling over mountains. I truly adore the pristine mountain peaks jutting out of the earth, appearing the size of sand castles from my bird’s eye view. Today, I was hoping would be the day when I’d see both at once, a sunset over the mountains. Despite over 50,000 miles flown, I have yet to experience such a scene. I figured today I would get lucky, because although we left Atlanta around sunset, we would be chasing the sun as we headed toward the west coast. However, now that its past 11pm, the sun has long since set and all I can see are thousands of little glowing dots lining the streets of an unknown city.
The flight has been pretty good, except for the one moment when my stomach nearly jumped through the roof as we hit patches of turbulence. It wouldn’t have been quite as scary, or really not scary at all if it hadn’t been for a little mishap on our charter plane last weekend. Last week we traveled to Charlottesville for the ACC Championship meet, and although it was luxurious to be on my first chartered flight, it wasn’t so great when we got struck by lightning. YES, our plane got STRUCK by LIGHTING! But besides a really loud Flash! KABOOM!, and about a minute or so where we all thought we were going to die, it really wasn’t that bad. But like anytime you’re on a plane, you can’t help but think of the basic laws of physics. “What goes up, must come down.”
Which reminds me of a quote I came up with the other night:
“Newton said, “What goes up must come down.” But the Optimist says,
“What falls down will get back up.”
It was one of those random thoughts that came to me in my sleep and motivated me enough to hop out of bed and scribble it onto paper so I wouldn’t forget it by morning. But it wasn’t all that random. It has quite a lot to do with all of the thoughts that were running through my head that night.
Two weeks ago, I ran a big PR in the 1500 at our home meet. I was ecstatic to hear that it was the leading time in the Nation, but at the same time a little uneasy that this meant more pressure and I knew if I started to settle even the slightest bit in satisfaction it could quickly lead to my future races going down hill. That happens a great deal in running; people run fast times, people reach the top, then they realize there is no where to go from there but down, and once they start thinking about that they cannot help but pull out early. It’s like riding on a rollercoaster. Up and up you go, and every “click” you hear means that’s one notch further you have to fall. That’s sort of what I was thinking the other night; the fact that the higher you climb to the top, the more its gonna hurt when you fall. My fall sort of came last weekend when I raced the 5,000m at ACC’s. I went into the race with some really big goals and then went into the final lap just hoping to score. It wasn’t like it was the worst race of my life, but it didn’t feel great going from #1 in the nation in one event to 7th in my conference a week later.
After the race, I went over to my friend Jackie, a teammate who I also ran with back in H.S. and tried to console her after her race. I told her my quote. I said to her that bad races are bound to happen now and then, everyone falls at some point, but not everyone chooses to get back up with confidence and optimism.
When you think about it, life is full of ups and downs. It’s just a fact that even when you’re on top of the world, the chance is high that you have nowhere to go but down. So this being true, what’s the point of life? Even the optimists who believe in better times must realize that no matter how many times you get back up again, eventually one day we all will die, and we can’t just hop on out of our graves now can we? Well, pardon me for going all philosophical here, but this is what was going through my head when I though of this quote the other night. It suddenly came to me, “Aha!” but if we are believers in Jesus Christ, there IS an “up” after death; Heaven. In fact, Heaven will be the one and only place where our rollercoaster-style life can finally plateau without the worry of another drop.
But back to life on Earth… One thing we cannot deny is the laws of physics and the facts of reality. Every runner has their good days and their bad, but to try and predict these, obsess over this, or become superstitious about them would be like chasing the sun. We won’t catch it, we won’t ever figure it out, but we CAN make conscious decisions on whether or not we will get back up after a bad day.
This weekend I am going to make the best of the opportunity that lies before me. I’m running my race to climb back up and do my best. I’m not afraid of failure, or falling. I’m confident that I have the strength to do my very best. After all, I’m running for Christ!
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13