Photo by: Har Rai Khalsa
EDITORS NOTE: Ella had a great season this spring but most of us didn't know about the extra challenges she had to overcome. In her first blog post Ella shares what she went through and how she faced it.
Injury and sickness are two of the inevitable obstacles all runners eventually face. They always seem to come out of nowhere and completely blindside you in the midst of what you believe to be your best training ever. For me, this certainly was the case, as I was in complete denial after I was diagnosed with mono at the beginning of my junior track season.
What started as a sore throat escalated to swollen face and thick neck. The week I was diagnosed, I had my first track meet, and I was planning to run the 3k. The race was one of the hardest I’ve ever run. More challenging than the race was accepting the way I felt. It’s always hard to be honest with yourself when things aren’t going the way you’d like, and it’s easy to overdo things in those situations. I was lucky enough to have coaches, family, and friends that were willing to work with me through it all.
When I was diagnosed, my coach told me to expect no season. It was heartbreaking to hear him say those things. Every runner who has had some sort of serious injury or sickness plague their running career knows the feeling. That day was probably the lowest low of my 2015 track season. I felt completely defeated.
After an easy week off over spring break, I tried some running again, determined to get back onto the track. Coming back certainly wasn’t easy, but I was able to convince my coach to let me play it by ear and try to make it back to the state meet in Eugene.
I put on my spikes for the first time and ran an 800 at a home meet at the end of April. I ran 2:14, and felt great. I ran at the Centennial meet the next weekend and had another great race. I then came back the following week in the Jesuit Twilight Relays and had an even better race. At the district meet, I ran a lifetime best in the 800 and qualified as well with my teammate to state in the 1500. State was another successful meet. In my last race of the season, I ran the mile, and ran my last 800 in 2:14, what I had run for my opening 800 race two months prior.
Mono was not the end of the world, it was simply another challenge. It was a blessing disguised as a curse, a dark cloud with a silver lining. It made me so thankful for good health, and gracious for the chance to just be out on the track that season. It gave me so much perspective, and not only made me realize how great it feels to be healthy, but also how much I love the sport. You never truly understand how much something means to you until it’s taken away. I never imagined the year I was slowed by an illness would turn out like it did. But the most important lesson I took away from my bout with mono was how appreciative I was for my family and friends. I wouldn’t have had the success I had this past year - or even put my spikes on - if it hadn’t been for their unwavering support and love for me over those three months. I raced with gratitude every single time I stepped on the track, and when I would begin to get anxious, I would remind myself how lucky I was to be out there, doing what I loved surrounded by the people I loved.
Being sidelined isn’t easy, and certainly isn’t fun. But the things you learn about yourself in the face of challenge are what end up being the things that drive your love and passion for the sport the most. Have faith in the healing process, and know that everything will work out the way it is supposed to. Be appreciative for all those around you who are rooting for you to be healthy again. And when the time comes to step out onto the track again, race with gratitude.