Meet #2: Relays!

Yesterday, my school competed in a relay meet with five other schools in our district.  It was a perfect day for a meet, sunny but slightly chilly. I relish relay meets because they accentuate the importance of teamwork, providing the opportunity for athletes to collaborate with their teammates.  In our meet, the running events were the 4 x 100, Distance Medley Relay 1200-400-800-1600), Sprint Medley Relay (100-100-200-400), 4 x 800, and 4 x 400. As for the field events and hurdles, the lengths/times are added together in teams of three.  I really love relays, because they are fun to participate in and fun to watch.  The competition and adrenaline coursing through athletes' veins as they participate or spectate is amazing. There's always a mad scramble to form teams and find replacements, but most everything comes together by the time the gun goes off.

I was originally only on a 4 x 800 team, but a half an hour before the Sprint Medley Relay, a teammate asked if I could run the 400m leg for a team and I agreed.  My teammates and I warmed up and rushed through baton exchanges and then found our places on the track.  My heart was beating out of my chest as my friends ran the first three legs and after a somewhat sloppy handoff, I started my race, cutting in to the first lane of the track.  I sailed through the first 150 meters, but felt a slight fatigue in the middle of the second straightaway.  I focused in on my race, channeling energy from my teammates' cheers, forcing my legs to run faster.  I finished the race with the typical overwhelming sense of relief, and congratulated the other girls in my heat. 

I could barely breathe, and my stomach and chest hurt, but the 4 x 800 race was next, right after the boys' Sprint Medley.  Luckily, one of my teammates agreed to switch positions with me so I could run anchor and have more time to recover.  Exhaustedly, I changed shoes and went through the motions of dynamic warmups.   The race was combined varsity/JV, so there were 19 teams in the race.  As my teammates sailed through their laps, I tried my best to ignore the pain of my stomach and one of my friends advised me to "just run." When the anchors were invited on to the track, the 19 of us were in a group, staring down the home stretch to see when our teammates were approaching, hurrying into the first lane and grabbing the baton when it was our turn.

I took the baton and took off. Still tired from the 400, I went as fast as I could (not very fast) and as I started my final 100 meters, a girl started gaining on me. I gotta move, I thought, starting my kick.  I pushed myself to stay ahead of my competitor and resisted the temptation to elbow her out of the way (I value sportsmanship way too much to ever really do that).  She caught up to me, and for the last 10 or 15 meters, we were neck and neck.  As we crossed the finish line, we were side by side and the meet official at the end said, "The camera will tell us who was ahead, give your stickers in either order."  While anxious to know who had won, I was happy I had finished.  Amazingly, my stomachache went away during the race.  I cheered on my teammates for the rest of the meet and enjoyed the sun while it lasted.  As per tradition, my team lined up on the infield of the third turn of the 4 x 400 and yelled for our runners and other schools' teams.  When the running relays were done, we watched our female pole vaulters until they finished. 

The camaraderie at relay meets is paramount and I look forward to next year's meet.  Relays are such a great opportunity to push yourself with less pressure, and get to know your teammates better.

Last night, when I checked results, I learned that I had beat the other girl in the 4 x 800 by 0.02 seconds-- a small victory, but, hey, I'll take it :)


Do you run any relays? Which is your favorite?