Saturday, March 14th, 2020
I had just come off the best races in my high school career with a pair of state records. The feelings were high as I had smashed my PRs and I was hungry for more.
But wait — we were in the middle of a global pandemic.
At this stage in time, I pushed all those thoughts to the back of my head and continued to think of all the great things to come on the track this spring.
There was mass panic surrounding COVID-19, but I thought the season would resume a few weeks later once our country figured out what to do. It wasn’t till about 3 weeks later that I fully realized the extent to which this virus was going to affect my season, and as a result, I slowed my training.
My coach and I had to think about what path to take the next two months.
Time trials were the popular option, but I still looked for more. It wasn’t till about two weeks later when I got a message about a potential race.
Some of the top runners in the nation like Cole Sprout, Matt Strangio, Leo Daschbach and Easton Allred — they were all on board to hop in. After a short discussion with my coach and two weeks of relaxed training, we decided I was going to race, too.
However, this wasn’t just any race.
We were going to attempt a sub-4 minute mile.
Being in quarantine was really hard on my mind. I never got to see my coach or train with my team. Initially, each day seemed to get harder and harder as it was difficult to find that light at the end of the tunnel.
This race became that light.
My coach designed a four-week training plan with track workouts twice per week. I hadn’t touched a track in over two weeks, so I was a bit antsy to get back on.
The track never felt so good.
In my second workout back, I hit splits I’d never done before and was able to finish strong. As each week passed by I could feel myself getting stronger, and that began to fuel me with confidence and motivation. Fast forward four weeks and I’m in the best shape of my life.
I managed to do an 8×400 meter workout averaging out to about 58 seconds per rep.
I was where I needed to be.
The next 10 days would be followed with lighter and more maintenance type workouts as I began to taper for the big day.
Friday, May 22, 2020
My dad and I had just boarded a flight to Sacramento.
While in the air, my mind remained occupied with thoughts about the race as I envisioned the field and the gun going off. I wasn’t nervous — to be honest I was excited.
It had been over two months since I last raced, and the buildup made it even more thrilling. We landed in sunny California and proceeded to the hotel. After a few hours of rest, all the guys and I met up for an evening shakeout run.
I was pretty excited for this too, especially since I hadn’t seen most of these runners in a while. What better way is there for runners to meet up than a shakeout run?
The run went really well and was finished off by some stretching and strides.
Shortly after, we all went to a local Italian restaurant to get that pre-race pasta that all distance runners enjoy. The restaurant was open so we were all able to dine in together.
This was quite fun, as we all got to talk for multiple hours and enjoy a more casual setting before the big race the next day. We ended up staying there for quite a while due to the busy night and eventually headed home late.
Saturday, May 23rd, 2020
I slept in, and after I woke up I got breakfast with my dad. I made sure to eat a good amount of food — the race was at night — and went back to the hotel.
My dad and I stayed there for a while, letting a few hours pass us by, and then I met up at Matt’s house with the boys to play video games. When I got there we acted as if there was no race happening.
We played many classic Wii games such as Wii Sports and Smash Bros. This added to the light mood before the day and was a good way to relax the mind. After a few hours at the house it was time to go back.
This is when the more serious part of the day began.
I headed over to Subway with my dad and ordered a pre-race sandwich before we went back to the hotel. I started to really think about my race and began to listen to some music.
A few hours later, it was time to head to the track.
Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised. The track setup looked very official and things seemed like normal. Aside from there not being any fans yet, it looked like any other race.
I began to do my pre-race routine and 2 mile warm-up.
Sooner than later it was time to go. The starter did the introductions and led us to the line. It was at this time when I realized how many people were now in the stands. Many locals came to watch, adding to the already exciting energy in the stadium.
The gun went off.
This ended all thoughts in my head as I began to just run. We came across the first lap in 60. This wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, but I could make do with it. The pacers continued the lead as I was feeling extremely fresh.
Then came the halfway marker — 2:02.
This was not my plan, and I realized I was going to have to make a move in order to at least have a shot at the goal time and pull the remaining field along as well.
At just over 900 meters into the race I decided it was time to go, and I passed the single remaining pacer left.
At this point I still felt super strong and wasn’t that fatigued, and I continued my stride and still hung onto the lead through 1200 meters.
I dropped a 59 second third lap.
This is not what I had envisioned doing earlier in the race as it did not play to my strengths, but I had to do my best with what was given to me.
With about 250 meters left in the race the eventual winner Leo Daschbach passed me, shortly followed by the runner up Cole Sprout. This was the most challenging part of the race as my legs had begun to tighten up and pump lactic, but the rest of my body remained relatively stable.
I just had to hang on the last half lap.
At this point I knew I wasn’t going to break 4 which was rough mentally, but I kept looking up to see if one of the guys in front of me would.
I remember watching Leo come across the finish line while seeing the big clock read 3:59. This was very inspiring to watch, and although I crossed the line 3rd in 4:04, it was still awesome to be a part of such an awesome event and one of the best races in high school history.
Throughout the weeks leading up to the race I learned a lot of lessons, and I learned even more during the race weekend.
Most importantly, I realized that it’s the times of uncertainty such as the ones presented today where we must work our hardest. They can define why we do what we do.
I realized that I don’t like running just because I can run fast times, but rather it’s something that I love to do for fun and brings me joy even when I’m not racing or going fast.
Training during the pandemic also motivates and excites me for the future, as I came to the realization that if I can do what I did during those 8 weeks under those circumstances, I will be able to accomplish much more in a normal setting.
To all those reading this, I hope this race inspires all of you to go out and train — even if it’s harder than normal — and to not let the times we are in now define who you are as a runner or person.
There’s always a way.
THOMAS BOYDEN — SKYLINE HIGH SCHOOL
One Mile Run: 4:04.50
3200 Meter Run: 8:50.65
5000 Meter Run (XC): 14:39.62
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