The bag hasn’t been opened much since my last season. The season which I had gone into with lofty goals and harsh expectations, and came out of knowing that in all likelihood I would never compete in the sport again. That’s why it's melancholy, opening up a little time capsule from the ‘glory days.’
When I first unzip the pocket I get a little whiff of the track shoes inside– far less fragrant than I expected to be frank. My eyes drift down down into the dark bag and the glimmer of the plates on my track spikes catch my eye. I’m sitting under the bright Coy lighting so the darkness of the bag is whisked away when I pull it open another inch.
I see the navy blue Nike headband… An unofficial part of the uniform for the distance runners. We had all gotten matching ones for the relay, but now it just serves as a reminder of the memories made with seniors long gone across the country. It reminds me of the finale– when in our last meet of the season Axel and I had gone 1 and 2 in the Founders League 1500. Seidenberg had asked that I run not only the 800 and 1500– my regular events– but also the 3000; “just for fun” he had said.
Having pulled the light as a feather track shoes and headband out, I was left with just a few items left below. One thing caught my eye: I reached down and pulled out a smooth piece of plastic, I held down the button and the plastic quickly began to flash neon green. I didn’t expect its battery to still last after so long, but it was a pleasant surprise. It brought back the memories of all the night runs– or afternoon runs in the winter. It was nice to do those runs, getting out onto the road after swim practice, my wet hair getting ever so slightly frozen in the cool January evenings, fueling myself with dreams of crossing a finish line in first place.
It would be nice if those dreams had become a reality sooner, but they lost the race in the end. So now it's just a look back on good times, a little mental interview after the finale.
I pull the last item out and it sends shivers down my spine. Of everything to take out of that bag, this was the most ironic. It held the most memories in it by orders of magnitude. The dirty white synthetic baseball hat rested on my lap as I read the words “time to fly” in their unique royal blue tone off the front of the cap. I remembered all the long hot summer runs, the hands-on-your-knees moments when you’re out of breath, and the teammates throwing bottles of water on your already drenched sweat head.
This served as a look back, the finale of that chapter of my life happened long ago, but the memories still came back overflowing and hitting me like a freight train. Those were the days, maybe sometime I’ll go back, but until then it's just a glimpse back after the finale.
A Quick Reflection:
If you couldn't tell, this was the story of looking through my track backpack the spring of the year after my freshman track season in high school. I went into the season having come 6th at nationals in 8th grade, but had been hit with a wave of injuries once high school started. I had approached the season with the goal of returning to nationals that year, but those goals were ultimately given up during the season, when I just wasn't improving as I had in past years. I chose instead to pursue my career in swimming, which I had competed in at a level nearly as high. I wrote this piece while going through the bag, reliving all the fun times I'd had that year. It was melancholy to me; I had loved the sport so much until I hadn't– It meant so much to me in life until it didn't.
Looking back at these memories nearly a year after the season began, it made me miss everyone who had made it what it was, and made me begin to wish I hadn't fallen out of love with the sport the way I did. I'm happy with my decision to stop of course, but it got me thinking about all of the amazing things that the hours and hours of running alone and with teammates had taught me. In reality it showed me how much I truly had loved having that piece of my life.