That’s all I felt as my teammates and I walked into the Drake University stadium on Thursday evening. Through my computer screen in years past, I watched elite athletes circle the famous blue oval, but I had never witnessed the fiercely competitive Drake Relays in person.
Last weekend, my team packed in vans and traveled four hours to Des Moines for the nationally renowned meet. Though my times are far from Drake qualifying standards, the Wisconsin group and I were given the opportunity to race another 5k at neighboring Simpson College. So, we were able to travel down with the Drake competitors, watch them clinch school records and meet championships, shake hands with Olympians and run 12.5 of our own laps all in the same weekend.
Now, I need a nap.
Also, I realized that including every highlight of my Drake Relays weekend into a single blog post is near impossible (and would interfere with my much needed sleep). Luckily, I captured iPhone photos of several moments that brought me joy:
- These speedy women. Watching some of your best friends become Drake Relays champions is indescribable. Having three relay teams (4×800, SMR and DMR) in the same year achieve this status blew my mind. I am unashamed to admit that I cried happy tears when Emily was interviewed after the 4×800 victory, and she said that her efforts were all for the team. Even though the dramatic finishes in some of these races skyrocketed my blood pressure and probably took a few years off of my life, I still love these ladies very much.
- This banana. All of the bananas in our hotel breakfast area had encouraging phrases written on their peels. Some of the sayings included “Be your own BFF” and “Live, Laugh, Love,” but in the spirit of track, I chose to eat the “Believe, Dream, Achieve” banana on race day. If I ever own a hotel, my first order of business will be to model my breakfast’s fruit basket after this one.
- These goofballs. Piling grass, leaves, rocks and Birkenstocks on teammates’ heads is essential to a good track meet. When pre-race nerves threaten to consume me, I can always count on my friends to make me smile, whether we’re telling childhood stories, pulling pranks or playing truth or dare. Some say that laughter is the best medicine, but I’m skeptical since I still have shin splints.
- Meeting elite athletes. Drake Relays garners much of its fame from its inclusivity of high school, collegiate and elite competition. From pole vaulters to wheelchair athletes, I have never been in the same stadium as so many Olympians, so my fangirl-ing hit an all time high. However, the best part about meeting elite runners at Drake was when we convinced Georgeanne Moline to give a video shoutout to Val, a hurdler on our team who is arguably Georgeanne’s biggest fan.
- Beautiful weather. Throughout the whole weekend, the 70 degree sun lit up the track–and, unfortunately, our sunburned skin. Scoring such weather in the Midwest is rare, and running in the sun was so much sweeter after enduring multiple April blizzards.
- Racing as a team. You can’t spell Drake Relays without, well, “relays.” Team is ingrained in the meet’s name, and team was ingrained in our minds as we approached the competition, whether or not we were technically part of a relay and whether or not we were technically part of Drake. Our 5k races at Simpson were, in Scott’s words, “collectively something special.” Though some of us–including myself–didn’t have a perfect race, our team’s overall performance pushed our distance running program in a positive direction.