October 3, 2011 (writing from my past): This tight hamstring has truly captured my sanity. I’m afraid to admit that it’s almost impossible to recognize myself without running, it’s simply who I am and brings me the most comfort. Does anyone else feel this way? Maybe that is the sole reason for this new injury? Maybe I need to address this on a deeper level or find another passion? Physically, it feels as if a 300 pound man is strangling my muscles with a deathly grip. Spiritually, every step, every stride, is a reminder that this man is coming between me and my passion, my goals, and the single thing I can control. Either way, this man is my motivator.
Honestly, if my body allowed me to, I would train for the Olympics…the track and trails are truly my sanctuary! After my first All-American medal was hung over my neck at the 2010 Cross Country Championships, I have held myself to a higher level of respect and responsibility with my running. It was the first moment where I realized the greatness that’s always been inside me, the greatness we all hold, and the first time I truly grasped the critical concept of hard work and where it can take you. Not only was I standing among legends, I had run with them too. And I wanted more… I just had to get back on the podium. This vision, in combination with my new found personal respect, has carried me through many blistering cold New Hampshire morning runs or elliptical workouts. I’ve always told myself, somebody has to win, why not me?
My relationship with running goes far beyond obsession, even further beyond love. It is simply me. My every footstep leads me down another road, closer to my destiny. And my destiny will ultimately be sublime, beautiful. I just know this. The other part of my dedication to this crazy sport is the part about it being in my control. As a child caught in the middle of her parents divorce, I have felt and continue to feel voiceless, small…powerless while the yarn unravels. It is difficult sometimes at my five foot one inch frame to feel intimidating. Not to mention, I have this issue with only seeing good in people and the World. Us easy-to-trust can easily be taken advantage of.
But when I step to a line with hundreds of runners…everything changes.
This moment, for many, is pure adrenaline and nerves…an internal tornado. Every second until the gun goes off is like eternity, a completely surreal moment…especially at a championship race. You can only understand this feeling if you have participated in our sport. Although, I bet a starting point guard may feel the same way walking out onto the court in silence with their team by their side and the stands full, ready or not for the game ahead. At some level, we all crave this pressure, it makes us feel alive and reminds us why we love what we do.
For me, those moments of silence are my zen.
“On your mark!” Shouts the official. Hundreds of pounding hearts and trembling hands take their stance and set their watches to zero, minds already racing. I take a deep breath and look up to the sky and it’s as if God himself is speaking to me, “This is your race”. I meet him in my mind before every race and we run the trails together. He paces me through every mile, coaching me as I swiftly move along, finding my center. “Stay strong” he tells me. He is my strength and I am his seed. He gives me something to chase.
I squint my eyes shut and in these few eternal seconds the emotion of the whole experience can literally bring tears to my eyes. This is my purpose, I remind myself. I look to the left, and look to my right. Down the hundred or so yards, foot after foot, my teammates and competitors get ready. And at this point in time, I am more comfortable than ever…it’s pure confidence. I know, that I will lead my team, and this entire field of runners, to victory. Me. Little Paige Mills, will dominate every hill, every mile, and every course. It is my playground. I am in control and I know my fate for every race…I will run hard, I will love the pain, and if I do win, I will do it with a smile on my face.
My mom always tells me the Universe works in mysterious ways, this I know to be true. Tonight I zipped up my hoodie, laced my sneakers, and headed out the door for my second run. Just an easy three miles with the company of my Ipod and thoughts. Division 1 New Englands are tomorrow and it’s a big deal because how we race determines if we will run at Princeton next weekend. My coach says, “No matter what, Paige will have a good day. It’s up to the rest of varsity to pull through”. It’s a nice comfort indeed when your coach has so much confidence in you. I usually just do whatever he says and I end up running within seconds of what he always predicts…the man is good! Then again, I guess that is why he’s coach. I just do not want the girls to run scared, it’s time for Keene State to take Franklin Park down!
My run this evening was peaceful, roaming through the familiar streets of Keene as most of the town was snuggled inside their homes. I crave moments like this. My hamstring never let up though and I kept replaying Coach’s words in my mind, Paige will have a good day no matter what. I can’t let him, or my team, down. As I neared Valley Street and brought my run to a close at 23 Fowler (that’s my apartment, the track guys live next door) I looked up at the night sky and as usual, became quickly captivated by the brilliant display of sparkles. New Hampshire has some of the best star gazing I’ve ever experienced.
It was cold enough out to easily bolt inside and hide under the covers, it just wouldn’t have been right to desert a moment like this though. I walked down the middle of my street as my shadow led the way. Looking at my silhouette was the reminder of this perfect solitude I seemed to have discovered, and I felt so free. I approached Carpenter Field and after eighteen months of living on this side of town I can count the times I have visited this field…just once to do strides.
As a child I played countless games of T-ball and soccer out here, swinging on the swings with mom or dad after each game. An old flatbed trailer stood in front of the fence, dark and lonely. I decided to climb aboard, give it some attention and stretch my legs. As I straddled the wooden planks, feeling a slight burn, I looked across the field. Everything seemed unfamiliar all of the sudden. But this unfamiliarity welcomed my soul and I felt one with my body and mind. I glided my hands over my ITBand, creating heat between the two forces.
The peace that surrounded me was so overwhelming, I wondered how I had ever passed up a moment so beautiful. I sent my pain to the sun and shut my eyes…Whatever is out there for me, thank you. And in that final second of my gratitude, flew a brilliant shooting star!
I knew in an instant, that God, and the Universe, had heard me.
The next day after I raced I met my dad for coffee as we always do, ready to share my exciting story from the night before and my experience with something bigger than me…bigger than Earth itself. I watched as his musky gray eyes lit up as the story unfolded, as if he was there with me when it all happened. When I finished telling my story, he immediately shared a vision, his interpretation, that was clear as day to him…
“When you were walking down the middle of the street with your shadow, and you found peace, there were angels all around you…they were leading the way…”
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Best of luck to those athletes with upcoming competitions and to those people who continue to pursue their passions, even if you are fearful. Never be afraid to trust your feet and look inside yourself…we all hold the answers. It’s up to you to define your reason and your purpose. The rest will fall into place.
Peace, love and running!