Before every race, I write a Bible verse on my left arm. Though the verse is different each time, they all serve the same purpose: to refocus my mind on Christ when racing anxiety begins to consume me.
Thursday’s verse was Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others.” Further, Paul says that because Jesus “took the very nature of a servant” and “humbled himself,” to value and serve others is to spread Jesus’s love.
Last week, two of my coaches, 13 of my teammates and I traveled to Platteville, Wisconsin to race in a series of competitive 5k heats. The 14 of us were sprinkled in among 180 runners and nine sections. For two consecutive hours, our coaches watched–and cheered–intently in the 50 degree sunset (sigh) as each of us circled the track 12.5 times. It was a distance coach’s Christmas.
It was also an incredibly others-focused track meet–though track is predominantly viewed as an individual sport.
Heading into the meet, our goal was to post a series of strong times as a team, and the fast, closely packed field provided at this meet would do just that. We toed the line with our teammates in mind, and often, at our side; only two of the 14 of us were the sole Augustana runners in our heats.
My teammate Courtney and I ran side-by-side at the front of the pack for the first mile of our race. Though leading the field right away is nerve-racking, I was encouraged to see another navy jersey in my peripheral vision. Also, the experience of racing alongside a teammate is empowering; I was reminded that true strength lies in togetherness and that my race’s purpose rested far beyond myself.
And, Courtney was not the only person to remind me of the team. Seemingly around every curve of the track, I heard a different voice yelling, “Let’s go, Augie! Go Alana! Go Courtney!”
Platteville is six-and-a-half hours away from Sioux Falls. Only a fraction of our whole track team competed. Needless to say, there were not many Augustana fans who made the trip, though I still heard many cheers–cheers from teammates who often had their own races to focus on!
Yet, in a sense, focusing on others’ races was focusing on our own races. As Courtney and I were completing our pre-race drills, we watched two other teammates–Paige and Nicolette–cross the finish line, both with significant personal records. Seeing these two crush their previous times inspired us to pursue our own race with confidence. Though out of breath immediately after our race, we screamed for a pack of five runners on our men’s team. During our cool down, we briefly paused to congratulate–and support–three other women on our team for their performances.
And all of my teammates reciprocated these actions.
Previously, I viewed track as cross country’s less scenic, less team-focused cousin. True, unless you consistently race at Nike World Headquarters, track’s scenery won’t improve much, but what’s keeping us from changing its team atmosphere?
That Thursday evening, I experienced a small slice of what Paul preached in Philippians: expressing Christ’s love by placing others before ourselves.
Then, we all drove over to a local restaurant to experience some big slices of pizza.