On the night my cross-trainers were working out on the Cascade Middle School track in Vancouver, I was lounging at Marshall High School in Portland watching the PIL Middle School District Track & Field Championships. The conditions were consistent with the unseasonably warm weather patterns the Pacific NW has treated us with in 2016. As the sun began setting on this Tuesday evening, the runners on the track were beginning to heat up.
Overall, the races were competitive and positive sportsmanship was shared amongst all. Knowing I was in attendance to watch Ethan, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the athleticism and speed of many of the top performers. Still, after training Ethan for the past 18 months, I cannot help but wonder which of the kids on that field had yet to tap into the core of their potential. It saddens me that track runners, and cross country runners as well, often use the season as a springboard into other sports, instead of an actual sport itself. How might school and university record books look if more athletes and runners participated in track and field? More importantly, how might they perform if they performed off-season training, or year round training, similar to other sports? After working with Ethan for 18 months, I am more convinced than ever that reaching your peek potential takes commitment and an open mind. An open-minded approach includes the willingness to learn new philosophies of training and competing, and most importantly, using those philosophies to construct your own in due time.
What a difference a year makes. This night, Ethan was scheduled to run the open 400m and 800m., whereas last season he raced the 200m and 400m. With Ethan being a distance runner in the fall, and the crazy-fast speed of the 200m sprinters likely becoming future 400m runners, moving up to the 800m just makes sense. To prepare for Districts, we spent the previous weekend running mock races. Lots of block work, focusing on acceleration, sustaining pace, staying relaxed, understanding when and what to focus on during various aspects of the race and also staying within himself. Informally, meaning without actually conversing about it, Ethan was put through a degree of visualization as well. This is done to see the field, without actually exerting physical energy. Think of it as contemplating a game plan, memorizing the plan, then rehearsing the plan, literally.
Starting in lane four for the 400m, the gun went off and Ethan caught the runner in lane five within 30 meters. When that happened, I remember telling Ethan’s dad, “There’s one” because the speed at which he was accelerating was precisely what he had rehearsed the weekend prior. He continued catching and passing the other runners and he remained aggressive through the tape. Not only did he earn a winning time of 55.74, but a PR of over two seconds and a new school record!
Next up was the 800m, which is a tough double at any level. The weekend prior, we keyed in on two strategies for the race, and Ethan’s demonstration of self-control was admirable. Though he took the lead on the backstretch of the first lap, he slowed the pace to a near crawl, or so it seemed. From where I stood on the backstretch, it appeared he may actually start walking, but when I looked at my watch, his first lap split was 71 – hardly a walk. Runners began getting anxious at the pace, and when the second lap began, two others made an attempt at passing on the outside. Knowing what Ethan had tolerated during the weekend workouts, I had a much better feeling about the conclusion of the 800m than I did with the 400m, so I felt he had a good chance of winning with 250 meters remaining. Focusing on form and posture for the remaining duration, he powered through the finish with a 2:17 (unofficial – still waiting on athletic.net). Another PR and another school record.
Two races, two championships. Ethan’s accomplishments on this night is difficult to put into words, but I suppose it’s what I said before – commitment and a willingness to be open-minded. Being open-minded goes beyond simply running workouts. It’s entrusting the process and knowing the pain and anguish we are experiencing during the workouts will be present, but they will always pay dividends. Ethan has learned the process and knows what’s next. When I approached him after the 400m he asked what his time was. I showed him the watch and he covered his mouth in disbelief. He then stole my line, which I have borrowed from coaches of the past.
E: “You know what that means?”
Me: “What’s that?”
E: “Faster intervals” (during practice).