by Katie Lane
The alarm goes off. 5 AM. Sometimes 6 AM. Always early, never late.
Today is Wednesday. Three days until one of the most important races of my entire life.
I lay in my warm bed, conflicted about getting up. Morning runs wake me up, but the
thought of them drains me.
No, I thought. I want to be the best, so I have to get up and run.
I need to be the best.
I roll myself out of bed and get dressed. The spring weather has been in Ohio for a few solid months now. For a while, the day would start with a light breeze and a moist atmosphere. As we head into the last week of school, the air has started to become heavier and the sun is shining more. The breeze is still there, but the heat is starting to overpower it. While everyone is going to be stuck at school on Thursday and Friday, I will be in Columbus, Ohio, competing at the state meet. I get to soak in all the sun this weekend.
I throw my thick, dark hair into a ponytail and pick out my favorite running shoes, my Brooks Adrenalines. I brush my teeth and sip some water, then I am out the door to start my easy, three-mile run. My coaches planned the last workout today as we near the state meet this weekend, one of the most important meets of the season. If I excel at the state meet, I will have a shot at going to the NSAF Outdoor National Meet.
Competing against the best of the best at one of the most prestigious tracks, Hayward Field.
I have to be great. I have to win this weekend. Whatever it takes.
I don’t have to get up and run in the morning. I choose to because I want to be the best I can be. Not many people understand that, mostly because they don’t have the same drive as me. People always comment how I am always running and never doing anything “fun”, and by fun, I mean drinking and partying over the weekend. Sounds like a headache to me.
I do some stretches and warm-ups, and I listen to music while the sky starts to show a hint of light. Sometimes I listen to podcasts in the morning since my morning runs are usually very relaxing. Today, I wanted something a little bit more upbeat. I chose a playlist that mostly consisted of early 2010 hits. After stretching well for a good ten minutes, I get started.
The feeling of starting a run is the best. I jump ahead and feel the bounce of my shoes below me. My shoes hit the road softly, and the only noise heard is the occasional skid of my shoes catching little rocks. I smile as I get into an easy groove, listening to my upbeat music. My breathing stays even, in and out, in and out…
I run throughout the town, going up and down the quiet streets. I run on the town’s main street and observe all the stores. It’s still a little too early for cars to be roaming about, but the tiny stores are starting to light up. The bakery near Subway is about to open since they usually get a stream of people in before 7:00 AM. The CVS doesn’t open for another two hours and the same with Dollar General. The Speedway is always open.
During my run, I honestly have nothing to think about, other than the meet this weekend. I finished my final exams last week, so no more schoolwork for me. The last few days are pretty much pointless. The thought of being locked in a dingy classroom and not being able to enjoy the weather is just awful. One of the many perks of being a high school track athlete is that you get to miss those last few days.
Three miles go by surprisingly fast, and I head back home. It is currently 6:05 AM, and the school doesn’t start until 7:45 AM. I have more time than I originally thought, so I might be able to watch some TV before I go to school. I should probably do an ab workout though. Any free time in the next few weeks should be devoted to strength workouts and stretching. Mostly of stretching.
However, as I walk inside my house, I start to feel dizzy and have the urge to fall over. I grab onto the wall and try to regain my balance, blinking my eyes vigorously.
I’m not going to lie to myself, but I can to others. This wasn’t the first time this has happened to me. Not even the second or the third. More like the eighth.
As always, I just ignore it. It doesn’t need to be acknowledged if it truly isn’t a problem. I always sit down for a few minutes and chug some water. It usually works.
After chugging for a good thirty seconds, I don’t feel dizzy at all anymore. I go take a shower and get ready for school. I usually wear simple outfits to school, like jeans or leggings with a shirt or hoodie. I have been so cold lately, so I have been wearing baggy clothes. Wearing baggy clothes is way more comfortable anyway, something my best friend Brooke would never understand. She never dresses for comfort. I don’t ask her for clothing advice anymore because all I want to wear is sweatshirts and sweatpants, which she hates.
After I am done getting ready, I decided to do a little core and some stretching before school. With that, I also have time to watch a little TV. I keep the noise down since neither of my parents is up by the time I leave for school, probably because they were out at dinner late with some old friends. Once the clock hits 7:20, I grab everything I need for the day and head out the door.
It only takes me about five to seven minutes to get to school, so I get there around 7:30. I realized once I walked in that I didn’t eat anything this morning, but I figured it was fine. I am trying to watch what I eat and when I eat. I want to be as fast as I can these next few weeks, and food will either make me or break me.
I think it will break me.
Smaller equals faster. Everyone in the running world knows that.
I move past my eating thoughts when Brooke, my best friend, runs right up next to me
with a pearly white smile on her face. Her long blonde hair is pulled back into a crisp ponytail and she is wearing an outfit I would never be able to pull off. She has a long-sleeved white shirt paired with a pink skirt and white heels.
“There’s my little national-ranked runner,” she says as she squeezes my arm.
I scoff. “Hopefully I keep that position this weekend. The more my time improves in my events the more I’ll move up in the national rankings, so I need to hit negative splits on my 1600-meter race if I want to get a personal record.”
She rolls her eyes as we get to my locker. “No need to get all technical with me.”
I cock my head. “Everything I just said is common sense,” I say as we reach my locker.
She leans against my locker. “Whatever, too many words were used,” she brings out a tiny mirror and checks her makeup. “So, after practice, I am thinking we should take out the girls for a little team bonding. It’s so stressful right now with the state meet coming up that I think the girls could use a pick-me-up. We could go to the Fruit Stand in Kent? Or Artisan?”
I stare down into my locker for a few seconds. Think of an excuse, think of an excuse…
I look back up at her. “I want to but I have to do some chores tonight since I will be gone the whole weekend. I promised my mom I would get them done tonight.”
Brooke frowns. “Come one Alii. You sure you can’t spare an hour?”
“No,” I say as I frown. “Maybe on Saturday? After we kill it at the meet we should go out to dinner somewhere with the girls.”
Brooke puts a small smile back on her face. “Okay, I can work with that,” she says as she grabs my arm and walks me to my first-period class.
I didn’t have to do any chores. I did them all last night. I hope Brooke doesn’t try to call my mom and get me out of my “chores.”
I went through my day consumed with thoughts of the meet this weekend. It’s so hard not having schoolwork to distract me since I am usually slumped with homework daily. I try reading a book or listening to music. The music helps calm my nerves a little, but anytime I start reading, I get distracted.
The other thing that is very distracting is the random bursts of pain that I have been getting in my stomach all day.
I try to ignore it and move on with my day.
Once the clock finally hits 2:35 PM, I grab my stuff from my locker and head to the field house. This is going to be my last real workout before the meet on Saturday. It should be quick and fairly easy … I walk into the locker room and get dressed, listening to the other girls chat about the meet this weekend.
One of the fastest sprinters, Harper, says “I hope I make it to the finals for the 200-meter race. I think I have a very high chance in the 100 meters, but the 200-meter runners are absolute units.”
“Oh please,” Evelyn, another sprinter, says, “You are the fastest sprinter I know. You are the reason why the 4 x 200-meter relay won districts. Your third leg got us back into the lead.”
Another one of my teammates, Simone, says, “I am just so nervous about the meet. I just want to race right now so that I don’t have to worry about it anymore.
“You girls are going to be great,” I say as I slide on my running shoes. “There is no group of girls out there that deserves to be there more than we do.”
“You are going to smash the meet this weekend,” Simone says. “You are a literal unit.”
I laugh. “Thank you. I am hoping to break some state meet records this weekend,” I say as I cross my fingers.
“You definitely will,” Taytum, a thrower, says. “You are one of the best runners in the nation. That is insane”
I smile and say “Let’s hope I keep that position.”
I like how I act like I am calm when I am the opposite. I am stressed out more than anything. This is my chance to get a better time for the national meet. I need to be ranked even higher if I plan on winning a national title. I can’t blow it.
Once everyone is ready, we head out to the track to do our last workout. I don’t see Brooke anywhere, but she will probably be sprinting down to the track from her boyfriend’s car. I never ask her what happens in that car, but she tells me anyway. It’s usually arguing or making out.
Everyone is on the track now, chit-chatting about their days, the meet this weekend, what they are going to eat for dinner, and a bunch of random stuff. I look around for Brooke, hoping that she finally made it to practice on time. She is always late, without fail.
Right before we start warming up, I see Brooke sprint down the stairs with her water bottle and her pink track spikes in hand. She runs over to me with a stern but careless look on her face. I can already tell that she got into another argument with her boyfriend Samuel. She throws down her spikes and water bottle and gleams up at Coach Dawn. “Ready to work Dawn,” she says as she puts her hands on her hips.
Coach Dawn rolls her eyes. “I won’t make you run an extra lap since you were here on time. For once.”
Brookes claps her hands. “Yes! I guess that argument with Samuel came in handy.”
Dawn blows her whistle and says “Get going.” We all started to jog two laps. Brooke and I get into our usual conversation, which consists of her ranting about Samuel.
“I can’t believe he dares to assume it’s okay to be at a party with Carly Whorten, especially without me there!” she says. “ I trust him, but her? Not in the slightest.”
I scoff. “Are you sure you just don’t trust him? It sounds like you wish he wasn’t around any girls.”
She lightly slaps me. “Hey! It’s okay to be a protective girlfriend. Especially when he’s around a girl whose last name is Whorten. It has the word whore in it,” she says with a laugh.
I laugh too. I try to focus on that laugh as I get a short burst of pain in my stomach.
Ignore it, my mind says. Get through the workout.
After we are done stretching, the coaches tell us about the workout. We have five
different coaches still present in the postseason: Coach Dawn, Coach Bill, Coach Tina, Coach Ray, and Coach Lane. Dawn and Ray pull the distance kids aside as well as the sprinters. There are eight sprinters and three distance kids.
“This is going to be the last workout before Friday and Saturday. It’s pretty easy since I don’t want you guys to be sore at all for this meet,” Coach Dawn said.
“Everything is going to be paced,” Coach Ray says. “Sprinters are going to do three paced 200s and three pace 100s, as well as a half mile to a mile cool down. Distance is going to do one-paced 800, two-paced 200s, and a three-mile cooldown. For those who did three miles this morning, you only have to do a half a mile cool down. Not bad at all.”
Everyone nods in agreement. We all separate, Dawn taking the distance runners, and Ray taking the sprinters. All of us line up, which is me, Wes Finnegan, and Ryan Walker. We did have another distance girl, but she had to drop out of her race this weekend. She hurt her knee and has to have it checked out, so she decided to play it safe and not run this weekend. She didn’t want to risk being out for cross country.
“Ready to see me win this weekend?” Wes says with a smirk.
I laugh. “Can’t be that hard. Just have to run a sub 4:20 mile. If you do that, you got it in the bag.”
“Well, good thing I already have a sub 4:20 mile. But a good handful of kids already have that too. This weekend is going to be intense” he says.
“It will be interesting if you fall on your ass the last 100 meters,” Ryan says.
Wes wacks his hand against Ryan’s head. “I only did that once dip shit.”
“Boys, what did I say about your foul language? I am going to dump a bucket of ice
water on you one of these days, just wait,” says Coach Dawn.
“I would love to be there to see that,” I say with a smile.
“Don’t worry,” Coach Dawn says. “Everyone on the whole track team will be there.” Wes and Ryan roll their eyes. “Let’s just get started,” says Wes.
“That’s good with me,” says Coach Dawn. “I want this 800 to only be 60-70% of your
race pace. Don’t push it. Does everyone understand?” she says as she mostly stares at me. She knows that I tend to overdo the workouts given, but I don’t care. I’m one of the best runners in the country. Most people know who I am. I know what I am doing.
She blows the whistle and we start running. Wes, Ryan, and I stay pretty close at the start. Once we get to the three-hundred mark, Wes and Ryan start to pull away a little. Even though I am one of the fastest runners in the country, the boys will always beat me out. I tell myself to not push up to them, that I am good where I am.
However, I start to get intrusive thoughts. I need to make sure I am running hard enough to burn calories. I can’t be gaining any more weight leading up to this weekend, so I need to take every opportunity given to burn some calories.
I have to be great this weekend. I have to be even smaller.
I start to push a little at the 500-meter mark, and as I lengthen my stride, I hear Coach Dawn yell, “Allison, shorten your stride! There is no need for that.”
I tune her out and keep my stride. My breath starts to become more uneven, but nothing crazy. I am still in control.
I feel the adrenaline rush now, the feeling of a newfound burst of energy. I feel like someone just shot a bad drug through my veins, a drug that makes me feel like I’m on Cloud 9.
I feel amazing. I know all this work I put in the last few months is going to pay off. I am going to win.
That exhilarating feeling only lasts for a good 200 meters. I get the weird dizzy feeling again like someone is shielding my eyes from the light. I blink a couple of times, and it is still there. I slow down noticeably over the last 50 meters, and once I cross the line, I fall straight to my knees.
I lay my head on the track and breathe in the smell of it. I try to even my breathing as much as I can, pausing every few seconds to take a deep breath. The air fills the void in my lungs, begging for more.
“Allison.” Coach Dawn’s voice pierces the silence. “You went too fast. I told you to slow down. Why didn’t you listen?” She comes down on the ground next to me.
I turn my body around so I am no longer staring at the ground on my knees, but I am instead sitting on my bottom. She hands me a cold water bottle and I put it on my face.
“I…I don’t know,” I say in a disoriented voice. “I think I have been so focused on the race that I thought I needed to go faster. You know how much I want to win.”
She sighs. “Sometimes you need to let your body rest. Your body is a machine that needs to be taken care of. I know it’s very hot out so that probably didn’t help much.”
I nod in agreement.
“However,” she says as she wipes the sweat off her nose. “I get it. You want to be the best. You will do anything to be the best. I was like you when I was younger. I made so many sacrifices to be the best runner, and it worked out. I don’t want you to feel pressured, however, you do need to run your hardest this weekend. You have worked so hard, and you deserve it more than anyone. You can only run your hardest though by fueling and resting.”
I nod in agreement again.
“Are you sure you are drinking enough? Eating enough?” Coach Dawn says with a concerned look on her face.
My heart skips a beat. “Yes. I eat and drink plenty,” I say quickly.
“I trust you, Allison. I know that you would never do that to your body just to be faster. I’m just checking,” she says as she pats my back. “I know I put a lot of pressure on you, but you have so much talent, Allison. You have a chance at being the best runner the nation has ever seen.”
For the third time, I nod in agreement. I smile at her and say, “I understand coach. I’m glad you push me so hard. I want to be the best I can be.”
“Good,” she says as she gets up from sitting on the ground with me. She grabs my hands and slowly pulls me up. “Maybe you should stop the workout, I mean it’s not that—”
“No!” I practically scream. “I want to finish. I know I can finish.”
She looks at me for a few seconds and looks at me sternly. “Okay. I trust you, Allison. Don’t mess this up.”
I nod and say “You got it coach.”
I finished the workout and cooled down with Brooke. The whole time she was still complaining about her boyfriend, however, the workout seemed to cool her anger just a little bit. She was ranting about how ridiculous he was, but she would then contradict her statement and say he had the kindest soul. I only heard those little parts of her conversation, since I wasn’t paying that much attention. I was mostly thinking about the conversation I just had with Coach Dawn.
She trusts me, and I completely lied to her. Right to her face.
It’s not like she is going to find out. I’m not completely starving myself. I still eat, just not a lot. Coach Dawn even said it, you have to do whatever it takes to be the best. She understands that I want to be the best, so she knows that it takes a lot of sacrifices. Loads of runners take these types of sacrifices. They probably don’t talk about it, mostly because they are embarrassed and want people to think they are perfect.
I am so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t even realize that Brooke was saying my name. I also didn’t realize that we stopped and were walking to the locker room.
“Allison? Hello? Earth to Allison?” Brooke said as she waved a hand in front of me.
I blinked from my long daze that seemed to last forever. “Sorry…I’m just tired from the workout.”
“You were barely saying anything to me when I was ranting about Samuel. I know you think he is a dick and that I am way too good for him, so I was very surprised when you didn’t say anything,” she says with a laugh. She notices that I don’t laugh and automatically frowns. “Are you sure you are okay? I’ve noticed recently that you never wear any of the cute clothes I bought you. You always wear those super baggy outfits all the time,” she says with a slightly disgusted voice.
We walk into the locker room and start grabbing our bags. “I’m perfectly fine Brooke,” I say with a fake smile on my face. “I like to dress comfortably. No need to worry about me.”
Brooke stops packing all her stuff up and says “Are you just saying that to make me feel better? I’ve noticed you have gotten smaller lately and I just want to make sure that—”
“I’m fine Brooke,” I snapped.
She stares at me in shock. “No need to get defensive.”
“You just ask too many questions, Brooke. I am seriously fine. I’m just nervous about the
race,” I say.
“You know I just care about you right? I don’t want you to be overtraining for something
that won’t determine what happens to you in the future.”
“Brooke,” I say sternly. “This does determine my future. It could determine if I get noticed by Stanford, NC State, Oregon…colleges that I have been dreaming of going to since I was seven. Scholarships are also on the line. This isn’t just something that I do for fun. You of all people should know that by now.”
“You aren’t just a runner Allison. There’s a girl capable of so much more than just running. You have become so obsessed with running that you miss out on life. You are allowed to be a normal human-being, Allison. I hope you figure that out soon before it’s too late,” she says as she slams her locker.
Before she leaves, she turns around again and says “It actually might be too late. Your whole personality at this point is just running.” She walks away and slams the locker room door.
She has absolutely no idea what she is talking about. I mean, at least she had this conversation with me before all the girls walked in. Still, why would she just call me out for that? There is absolutely nothing wrong with me. Brooke just likes to get involved in things that she shouldn’t. Her boyfriend is a perfect example. She got involved with someone that she shouldn’t have, especially someone who acts like drinking and partying is a full-time job.
I’m over this. Over with people treating me like I can’t control my actions.
Running does not control me. I am just very dedicated to my sport, and she just doesn’t have the same dedication.
I walk out of the locker room without saying bye to anyone.
Once I get home, I take a shower and read a book while I wait for the worst part of the day: Dinner
I still eat, but sometimes my parents make meals that don’t fit my personal “diet plan.” Since my mom is just as intense as I am about my sport, this week she made sure that all the meals were super healthy and fit my personal needs.
I go downstairs and the smell of delicious chicken wafts towards me. Chicken is a good
protein source. It can’t make me slower.
“Hi sweetie,” my mom says energetically. “How was school? Practice?”
I look down and see her ladling rice onto the plates, as well as broccoli and carrots. As
long as I don’t eat too much rice, I should be good.
“It was good. Kind of boring,” I say with a shrug.
“I guess being bored is better than having to do a lot of schoolwork. Your dad is running
late so it will be just me, you, and your brother.”
“Sounds good,” I say.
“Your brother needs to come downstairs,” she says as she puts down the rice and vegetables. “Where are you Jack?” my mom yells.
“I’m coming!” We hear loud thumps coming from upstairs. He makes an appearance only wearing shorts and white socks that go up to his scrawny knees. “I was doing pushups upstairs. I am trying to get big for wrestling next season.”
My mom nods. “I see. A good wrestler needs to eat his vegetables though,” she says as she hands him a plate.
Jack looks down, disappointed with the green and orange colors on his plate. “Can I dip it in ketchup?”
My mom and I both gag. “Ketchup? Who eats ketchup with their vegetables?” I say as I head over to the far counter for a napkin.
“Loads of people Allison!” Jack says as he grabs the ketchup from the fridge. “I saw it on Youtube. You guys should give it a try.”
My mom and I gag again, and Jack just laughs. We all sit down at our four-person dining table and listen to Jack talk about his eventful day. While he is talking about why his best friend Devin broke up with Claire, I am trying to eat as slowly as possible, careful to move around my rice enough to make it look like I ate more than I did. I still need to eat a certain amount of calories a day, and since I had a very small lunch, I’m going to have to eat a little bit more.
I eat the whole chicken, and then do my latest five-bite rule: five bites of rice and five bites of vegetables.
After only ten minutes, I get up to empty my plate into the trash can.
“Allison,” my mom says in a concerned voice. “You barely ate sweetie. You have a very important race this weekend.”
I stop in my tracks and turn around. “We had a team meal after practice,” I lied. “Also, I ate the whole chicken and some of the rice and vegetables. The team meal just really filled me up.”
She nods her head. “Well, I got a call from Brooke’s mom.”
My stomach dropped to the floor.
My mom sighs. “Brooke’s mom said that Brooke came home crying today. Brooke said
she is extremely worried about you, that you haven’t been yourself these past few months. She also said that you have gotten way too small. An unhealthy type of small.”
I gulp. “Mom…’m fine. Brooke is just being dramatic. I have been training hard these past few months. I just have been losing weight more rapidly. Some runners are even smaller
than me,” I say as I start emptying my plate into the trash can. I take a deep breath and pray that my mom believes me.
My mom drops her silverware and stares at me while I empty my plate. “The best runners fuel their bodies. You want to win, right Allison?”
I look up at her from the trash can. “Yes. More than anything. You know that.”
She looks away from me and picks up her knife and fork again. She starts to aggressively cut her chicken. “We have worked so hard to get here. You better not be messing this up,” she says as she takes a bite of chicken.
I walk over to the sink and start washing my plate. It’s not surprising to hear those words come out of her mouth. Running is my number one priority. I fuel my body with food so that I am healthy for running. I know that, and she knows that.
“I knew what Brooke’s mom was saying was bullshit. Sorry for my language Jack.” Jack shrugs and takes a bite of rice.
“You are the best runner in the state, possibly the nation. Brooke is just jealous. You can’t let people like that get to you, Allison,” my mom says as she points her fork at me. “You know your limitations, but you also know what your body is capable of. You will do whatever it takes to be the best, but not eating? Please,” she scoffs. “You have dedication, unlike any person I know. Some people will never understand.”
I smile at her. “Like I said, Brooke is just being dramatic.”
“I trust you, Allison,” she says. “Don’t mess this up.”
I nod my head. After I am done washing my plate and silverware, I go upstairs to pack
for the meet.
Sometimes I wish my mom would realize that I might have a problem. I am perfectly fine
with what I am doing, but I know it’s not right. She tends to ignore issues of the worry that we might not accomplish what we set out to do. If the problem is not affecting my running, then it’s not a problem, at least it’s not according to her. If she does acknowledge the problem, then the cost is higher than the reward.
I want to run. I don’t want her to find the problem. I know what I’m doing is not the best thing for my body, but loads of teenagers do it. Especially runners. They have to make sacrifices to be the best. Only certain runners understand that.
I don’t need help, and I don’t want help.
After I am done packing everything up, I go to bed knowing that I am making the best decision for my sport. Running is what’s going to change my life. It’s the one thing that will forever have an impact on me. Maybe Brooke was right. I am obsessed with running, and I am okay with that. I am successful at what I do, and I am going to keep doing it.
* * *
Yesterday was a complete blur. The only thing I have been focusing on is racing.
My team and Ieft at about noon on Thursday and enjoyed the day in Columbus. We get to compete on a college track, Ohio State’s that is. The next morning, Friday, I didn’t have to compete since the 1600 and 800 finals were on Saturday. I spent Friday just watching my teammates compete in their events. With it being so hot, I had to make sure I had my exact calorie intake in. Not enough calories could result in me passing out, which cannot happen. Now, it’s Saturday. My first event is in less than thirty minutes.
I was trying to avoid the sun as much as possible, so I am doing my dynamic stretches with Wes and Ryan under the stands. Coach Dawn already gave us all a pep talk before the track meet. She didn’t want to stress us all out right before we raced. She told us to have fun and to smile through the pain. I don’t know how those two things work together, but when it comes to running, anything you can to distract yourself will work
Wes, Ryan, and I are talking about what we want from the race when a voice I haven’t heard in a while says, “Allison? Can I speak with you?”
I turn around and, of course, Brooke is standing in front of me. I haven’t had a real conversation with her since the argument on Wednesday. The most I have said to her is “Good job” after she ran one of her fastest 200s in the 4 x 200-meter relay. She runs her 200-meter finals today, but not the 100. She didn’t make it past prelims.
She shoots her eyes toward Wes and Ryan. “Alone? Please?”
They both nod and walk away. I continue stretching as Brooke starts talking.
“I know we haven’t been on the best terms since our argument Wednesday, but you
know I’m just looking out for you, right? I want nothing but the best for you,” she shifts uncomfortably. “However, I know there is something wrong with you. I know you haven’t been eating as much. You also have been shutting people out.”
I try to search for the right words to say to her, but nothing seems to stick out to me.
Maybe Brooke is right. I haven’t been myself for months. She is just trying to look out for me like any friend would do…
But, I remember what my mom said. She’s just jealous. Don’t mess this up.
I stop stretching and say “Brooke, are you looking out for me? Or do you just not want me to race today?”
Brooke’s jaw drops. “I can’t believe you would even consider that. Do you think this is all jealousy?” She scoffs. “Trust me, I am not jealous of you. You may have it all when it comes to running, but you are losing everything, Allison. You are letting running control your life. Not to mention your health is declining.”
Tears start to well in my eyes. I can’t cry right now. I have to race soon.
“You can’t do this to yourself, Allison. If you think that you have to stop eating to be the fastest, then is it worth it?” Tears also start to well in Brooke’s eyes.
I wipe the tears away. “Thanks for the pep talk Brooke, but as I’ve said a million times before, I am fine. I don’t need you to be judging me all the time. Please, just leave me alone. I have to go check in for my race now,” I say as I walk away from her.
I probably just messed up that relationship forever. I don’t know if she will ever forgive me, however, that’s not what matters right now. I have to race this 1600 as fast as I can. I need to win.
I have to win.
I walk over to the track and check in with the refs. They give me my stickers to put on, and I already know coming into this race that I am seeded as number one. I put one sticker on my left chest, and the other on my left hip. I put my spikes on and do some strides on the little space of track we have.
As I am doing strides, I noticed that Brooke’s words are still swirling through my head. I just want them to go away, but I can’t seem to push them out. I feel like they will forever be imprinted in my head, a reminder that I insulted my friend. Brooke is always looking out for me and has never once turned against me. I just blatantly lied to her and said that I wanted her to leave me alone.
I don’t know how I’m going to get her back after all of this.
Finally, the ref screams that we need to start heading over. All the 1600-meter girls walk over to the start line. The walkover has always been my favorite part. The roars of the crowds are overbearing and loud, yet so exciting.
We all line up in the lanes that were given to us and shake our legs out. We haven’t even started running yet and all of us are sweating. The heat is going to be a real factor in how some of us perform.
The whistle goes off, signaling us to step up to the line. Two seconds go by, then the gun goes off, making a loud crack in the deafening silence. All of us are off.
I sprint to the front right away, careful to not get tripped by any of the girls behind me. The key to any big race is to get out as quickly as possible. It’s so easy to get stuck in a pack in the back, and it’s even harder to get out of it.
I am near the 200-meter mark and I feel amazing. I am cruising, and I feel strong. A few runners are still on my back, however, that will soon change after we finish the first lap. Most of them think they can hang with me, but once they realize I’m planning for a sub 4:50 mile, they will die out. I don’t focus on any of the girls around me. The sounds of their spikes hitting the track, the ragged, heavy breathing…all of it is zoned out. The only thing I focus on is my breathing, in and out, in and out…
We make it past the first lap and I can’t pick out any familiar voices. I do hear the random loud voices buried deep in the stands, the ones that anyone could hear from half a mile away. I start to lengthen my stride since the second lap is always my worst. I think it’s because I go too fast on the first lap, even though it feels like I am not going that fast at all. I am supposed to hit 70-second splits per lap, but I know that one was a little faster than planned.
I’m nearing the 600-meter mark and I know I am right on track for my sub 4:50 mile time. I am going to win. I can feel it coursing through my veins.
The adrenaline pulls me towards the 700-meter mark, then the 800-meter mark…
However, once I pass the 800-meter mark, I feel that weird dizziness again that I have been feeling for days.
No. Not now. This can’t be happening now.
I push through it, determined to win this race. I have worked too hard and made way too many sacrifices for this sport. I practically starved myself to be smaller, lighter, and faster…a sacrifice not many are willing to make.
I push towards the 1000-meter mark, knowing I only have 600 meters left. Finish, I thought. Just finish the race.
I feel my legs starting to tighten up. My breathing becomes uneven. The sweat trickles into my eyes, burning them so much I can barely see.
I have a little bit more than a lap to go. I have been in this situation before, I just have to keep pushing…
Two seconds later, I can’t see anything.
I fall to the left of me, tripping over the metal bar that surrounds the track. I lay there, on the verge of passing out, unable to see or hear…
I start to cry. Not just a couple of tears, but painstaking loud sobs that would make anyone want to cry with me.
Everything around me is pitch black. I feel like I need to throw up my internal organs to feel better. I have never felt so much pain in my stomach or head ever.
Why did I do this to myself? Why did I starve myself for months?
I have been lying to myself forever. This whole time I knew I needed help. This would have never happened if I would have just opened up to Brooke more. She knew all along that I needed help. While she was trying to save me from this happening, I completely shut her out. Not to mention I just threw away everything for this sport. I shut people out, I didn’t do the things I enjoyed…All I did was focus on becoming smaller. The worst part is, I never had to starve myself. If I would have just eaten, then I never would have gone through all this pain.
I still can’t see or hear anything. All I feel are hands grabbing at me, trying to get me to stand up.
Once I can see and hear, I see my coach staring right at me. I have never seen her look so concerned in her whole life.
“Allison? Allison, can you hear me?” she says, petting my hair delicately.
“Ye-Yeah,” I say. Those words were harder to get out than they should have been.
She smiles at me and nods. She hands me some water, and I sit there, staring blankly into the open. My mind is distorted, and foggy. I constantly want to just close my eyes, and forget this ever happened…
I hear my mom in the group, trying to get to me. I hear my dad, my brother…I even hear Brooke. However, I’m not focusing on looking at them at all. The only thing I am looking at is my spikes.
The spikes that I was supposed to win the race in. The spikes I was supposed to go to Nationals in. The spikes that have been carrying me to every win from the start of the season to now.
I was disappointed. Disappointed in my poor health decisions. But I didn’t need to scold myself right now. I wanted to be comforted, I needed to be told it was all going to be okay.
My mom finally got up to me and got my attention. I know she knows that I lied to her. She knows this only happened because I starved myself for months. I am expecting her to be disappointed and say “Why did you lie to me Allison?” or “You just threw away everything”, but when I look up from my spikes, I see that she is crying.
She opens her arms. I am shocked, yet so relieved.
I lean in and she starts to cry even harder. This is one of the best hugs I have had in a while.
“My sweet girl. I love you so much, Allison. I just want you to know that before anything else happens today”
I smile through my tears. I know everyone is watching this moment between us both, but I don’t care. I needed to hear those words more than anything. I wanted to be told that no one would be mad at me for not winning and that everyone would still be proud of me. I just wanted to be told that I would be loved no matter what.
I hug her even harder and say “I love you too Mom.”