|photo credit: Michael Scott
It’s hard to believe it, but four days ago I stepped off the track at Hayward Field after running just short of four laps, thus ending my fourth and final year running for the Florida State Seminoles. Although I’ll always consider myself a ‘Nole, I still can’t fathom the fact that four years flew by with the same intensity as four laps feel on the track, F-A-S-T!
Unfortunately, those last laps did not go by as fast as I’d hoped for my final race in the NCAA Championship last Saturday. I crossed the line in 4:16 for an 8th place All-American finish, but had to face the fact that I did all of the work, blocked all of the wind, but lost it all in the last 300m and was 6 seconds off my best. My first reaction…shock. Did I really just let that happen for the second year in a row? Did I not learn anything, or improve at all since NCAA’s my Junior year? Was this really how I would leave my final mark? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, it always takes time for things to hit me and reality to sink in, but after some thought I’ve come to a few conclusions. You can’t change the past, you can only change the future. That being said, even if I could go back and redo my FSU career I would hardly change a thing. In these past four years, my experiences both the highs and the lows, have taught me such valuable lessons and made for incredible memories which I know I’ll cherish for years to come.
Going into my Senior year I had high goals on my mind, one of which was not surprisingly to win NCAAs. Though I’ve never been one to share my goals, now that its over I can honestly say it’s a goal that has always been on my mind. I came into FSU as somewhat of an underdog my freshman year, and even then I still knew if I worked hard I could make it all the way to the top. Nonetheless I still remember a run I went on with my friend from Georgia, Kirubel Erassa, when I told him that my goal for freshman year at FSU was to score at meets for the team. He laughed at me and said I’d do much bigger things, but I was still hesitant to say my real goals out loud because I knew it was going to take a lot of work and luck to achieve them.
Work and Luck (or lack thereof), these two things seemed to define my career at FSU. Each year I worked harder to lower all of my PR’s more and more and qualify for the big meets and earn All-American 7x’s. But then there were those moments where I’d just finish stringing together several months of high quality training only to get sidelined for some little niggle of an injury that forced me to take off a week. Although I’ve been blessed never having a season-ending injury, the timing of these “little frustrations” always seemed to be working against me. Probably the most upsetting part was that I had to end my college career on one of those frustrating notes. Because of a nagging little niggle this season, I was unable to do a quarter of the speed work I wanted, and had to take off 4 of the 7 days leading up to my last race.
Excuses are not my cup of tea, they’re easy to pour out but hard to swallow. My last race was just like any other race of my college career; I was presented an opportunity, and then had to go out there and get things done. That’s how it works in running, its quite simple. Running is a form of meritocracy, you put in the work and out come the results…no excuses. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to face difficult circumstances at times. It’s in learning to deal with those circumstances though that a good runner can become a great one.
“Your circumstances may not be what you envisioned, but they are no obstacle for God,” says Francis Frangipane. I think in the last four years I spent running at FSU this was the lesson that I needed to learn the most. In four years I experienced some of my greatest achievements, made some of my best, goofiest and caring friends, traveled around the country and met people who inspired me and shaped me. Then there were the low points where I had to fight hard, get back up, learn to overcome, and learn who I could turn to in times of need. In these moments, I realized how much I needed God.
I’ve always known God, but never in the way I’ve come to know and love him in these last four years. I believe He had one more lesson to teach me in this last race, a lesson He’s been teaching me all along. The Apostle Paul learned that God was fully capable to reveal Himself, not only in the expected places, but also in the most unexpected places. I often feel this is true of ever life lesson I’ve learned. When things go just as we hope or expect we aren’t looking for any help or any change, but when the unexpected injury, bad race, catastrophe, loss of a job, (or whatever it may be) occurs, we realize how much we need more than just ourselves. Paul wrote, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place,” (2 Cor 2:14).
Coming to know God and his love and share this knowledge wherever I go is the most valuable thing I’ve gained in the last four years. While coming in as a freshman I may have thought I’d walk away with a first place trophy, I now realize that whether I have that or not is not going to make or break me, it’s who I have beside me. In the last four years I’ve had my parents loving and encouraging support, a coach who’s meticulousness for detail never failed to help me improve, and teammates who made me laugh and nearly cry as we pushed our bodies beyond exhaustion. But apart from such incredible human support I still needed God to show me perspective on the meaning of life and how I could use running as a way to share my faith and not feel like running was tearing me away from it. I needed God in my running more than anything else because I’ve realized I can’t do it on my own. Just like my race last Saturday, I couldn’t get it done alone. I’m not making excuses trying to say that if someone else led or helped me push that race I would have done better, I’m just making a statement that it’s a lot easier to accomplish things when you have help. But the reality is, I did have help. If it weren’t for the strengthening of my faith over the last four years I could see my last race ending up a lot worse than it did and ending with a big pile of excuses (like the fact I spent the day before my final sick in bed from eating bad eggs…Man I knew I shoulda chose bacon! (JK). It may not be the best finish I hoped for, but I trust that, “God will turn your setback into a setup that releases destiny.” -Francis Frangipane
I’m not sure what destiny will bring after this race, but I do know a few things. 1) I love running and I’m not about to stop 2) I love God because he promises eternal life no matter how many times I get off track, and 3) I know God is at work in my life (running and non-running…wait what non-running-life??) so I have nothing to fear about the future. I can’t change the past, I can only change tomorrow, but with God at my side I’m never running alone, and I’m incredibly excited to see what tomorrow brings! I’m not “running for a win,” though I’ll certainly strive for that opportunity. However I’m running for something greater, for my Lord and Savior who offers everyone hope.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”Jeremiah 29:11