I woke up yesterday morning and ran a 5K in Olathe. It was Girls on the Run, a character building ten week program that aims to enhance the self-confidence of young girls through running. The program promotes healthy lifestyle and self-respect through goal-setting, teamwork and communication with others.
I was a running buddy; my job was to be there every step of the way.
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
The best life lessons I have learned have come through my high school track team. Being surrounded by coaches and people who believed in my abilities more than I did, whose encouragement and words seemed grossly overestimated to what I felt I could do, who waited for me at the end of the finish line and no matter what, said good job and always always ALWAYS brought up the good points first.
“Die, Vampire, Die” is a song from [title of show].
“A vampire is any person or thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression”
The song tells us that vampires can come from the outside world—“You’re doing it wrong; so-and-so did it better; yadda-yadda-yadda.”
Or, they can come from the inside.
They can be those voices in your head telling you that you are not that great, that you are nothing special, never will be and never can be.
“It’ll wake you up at 4am to say things like:
Who do you think you’re kidding?
You look like a fool.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough”
Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform
and said these things, I’d think he was a mentally ill asshole,
but if the vampire inside my head says it,
It’s the voice of reason.
And when that voice comes up, that’s when you have to drive that stake through that motherf—er’s heart and yell DIE VAMPIRE DIE!
That is what I was there to help with—the yelling, the murder of the vampire.
We ran through the Garmin headquarter parking lots, Olivia and I, and she wanted to stop. She laughed, “I can’t do it, my legs hurt.”
They’re supposed to, I said. That means you’re working hard.
I’m not one for cruelty, if she were clutching her side, wheezing and crying I would have thrown her over my shoulders and ran her to the nearest water station, but she laughed.
Three years ago, I was intimidated by the other girls running beside me for the 100M dash at the last qualifier for our regional track meet. My time had qualified me to compete against them for a spot, but I didn’t think I was good enough. Before I crossed the finish line I gave up and smiled.
What a joke, I thought. I wasn’t ever going to make it.
Bob, a family friend, was at the meet that day. He took pictures of everyone, including me, but I didn’t see them until later. Bob was old fashioned, he didn’t use digital, had to actually go and wait for his prints to develop.
He gave me my picture from my 100, told me I was “grinning like the Cheshire cat,” that I couldn’t have been trying. I brushed it off, but it bothered me that it was so evident; my weakness and failure on display. One girl, who ran in the slower heat before me, had made it to regionals with the same time that had qualified me to run with the “fast girls.”
I didn’t care about the race, still don’t, but I do care about the attitude, and that was the lesson learned. Never again would I let reason dictate what I was and wasn’t capable of doing. Never again would I let that vampire talk to me like that.
For that race, the vampire won and I lost. And I wish it was, but it wasn’t the last time I let the vampire win.
Olivia told me her goal at the beginning—less than 33:32, her time from the year before. I started the stopwatch when we began to run and I held her accountable.
And she was great–more determined and brave than I would have been at her age. My vampires were too loud then, too lecherous. But she laughed after a little more than a mile. She was tired, prime vampire time, but I couldn’t let them win.
I told her to look behind her and trace the route we had already run, to see how much ground we had covered.
Along the way, the GOTR organizers had chalked phrases like “YOU’RE AWESOME” and “YOU ARE STRONG.” We flew over them, one by one, and I repeated the words to her, wanting her to understand how powerful she was, in both mind and body.
I gave her a point where we could stop.
“Get to the curve and we’ll stop for thirty seconds.”
Thirty seconds became fifteen, fifteen became ten.
Kansas humidity set in, she had forgotten to use her inhaler before the race, the sun was too bright, we were sweating beyond belief and fatigued.
Then we were in the shade, looping around the same path we had breezed through earlier, but it was harder than before. Our feet were heavier, everything felt like it was pulling us down, slowing us down.
Don’t let me hear your feet, I told her. If you’re running correctly, you shouldn’t be able to hear your footsteps. If you’re running incorrectly, it will just make it harder.
Her steps lightened and she moved over the familiar path, the chalked words of encouragement now smeared beneath our feet.
I didn’t tell her to run when she saw the finish line, she sprinted, without a word, into a sea of pink shirts and cheers and I followed her lead. She killed every single vampire out there yesterday, every girl did.
Prefonatine’s words carried me through the last one-hundred meters of my relay, encouraged me to grit my teeth and aim for the platform—“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
I will repeat that until the day I die, because it just may be the only lesson worth learning.