Over Christmas break, my friend Emily sent me a link to an Emma Abrahamson video: “an honest conversation about running with my sister.” A former runner for the University of Oregon and the Atlanta Track Club, Emma posts videos that are both humorous and refreshingly honest; I occasionally browse her channel during study breaks.
So, after Emily texted me, I eagerly opened YouTube and watched the whole 23-minute video during a cross-training session at the YMCA. And as I pedaled, I listened to one of the most relatable conversations between two high-caliber athletes.
In the video, Emma and older sister Ellie (current professional athlete and former runner at Wake Forest) speak on a number of subjects, spanning from recruiting to breakthrough races, concluding with the realization that runners don’t need to be serious all of the time in order to be successful.
After having a mini-identity crisis last fall, I was relieved to hear that professional runners have dealt with similar things before excelling at the sport. Specifically, Ellie’s pre-success story felt eerily familiar:
“I would get so nervous before races that I would drain myself,” she said in the video. “Right when I would start experiencing pain in a race, I would just freak out about it.”
Ellie also described herself as a “workout warrior,” crushing practices yet falling behind in meets. It was as if she was describing my entire 2018 cross country season; though I ran workouts with our team’s top pack, I was too frazzled and drained in races to keep up. A week before a frustrating conference finish, I had — no exaggeration — the workout of my life. I even joke with my teammates that it was my best race all season.
Ultimately, Ellie said that if you’re running the same times as your teammates in practice, yet you’re falling behind in races, something has to change mentally. After thinking I had reached my athletic peak, I was encouraged to hear that the dissonance between practices and races could signify an upcoming breakthrough — as long as I change my race day mentality.
Further, both sisters looked back on their collegiate experiences, noticing how “serious” they were as student-athletes. Of course, competing in college requires a high degree of focus, yet Ellie and Emma stressed the importance of living a balanced life. Emma even noted that her best performances occurred when she was having the most fun.
In an earlier post, I stated that my goal for 2019 was to rediscover the fun in racing. Sure enough, God gave me an opportunity for a fun, fresh start during the indoor season. With our first meet tomorrow, I can officially announce a bit of exciting news: I am now a middle distance runner! After talking with my coaches, we decided that racing shorter distances would be the best approach to the next few weeks (more details to come soon).
So, here’s to tomorrow: my first 800 since high school!