[Editor’s note from coach Malindi Elmore]:
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Run SMART coach are the relationships I build with interesting and talented people. I started working with my track coach when I was 14 and, except for my years at university, he remained my coach for the duration of my career – twenty years this year! One of the reasons we’ve been able to work together effectively was because he truly cared about me as a person and supported my other interests and talents. I was a person, not just a runner.
As an online coach, it’s important to realize that we are coaching people, not just runners. Some of my favorite conversations with clients are don’t include running as we chat about their formal dresses, new boyfriends (somehow the boys are less willing to chat about new girlfriends!), social activities, other sports, exam schedules, family and anything else that is particularly important to a teenager. I love getting a small glimpse into their lives and playing a role in helping them become the best person and runner they can be.
A very charming, bright, motivated and insightful runner I work with sends me the most interesting training recaps. She describes her training, the landscape, the climate and how she feels in a way that makes me feel like I am actually there in person! It was no surprise then that she won a Gold Key Award at the regional level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Award and her writing submission has been entered at the national level.
Here is one piece written by 15 -year-old Marimac McRae from Tennesse which she has generously allowed me to share with you.
By Marimac McRae
A field jumps into the landscape as you drive by. The emptiness of the field is out of place in the suburbs; thus, it invokes interest. Even more so, the field is interesting because it seems to be lifeless. The tired grass is barely green and has little sustenance, as if paintbrushes hatched long, concealing lines over the surface of the field. Up close, the grass is as thin as hair and covered in dust. It’s the kind of grass that will cut you if you get too close. There is gravel that looks like glass-shards making up forgotten running paths that cross aimlessly through the field. Nobody follows the gravel. They follow different, looping paths that streak about the uneven field.
No matter how many feet stamp the loops about the field, the grass has never subsided. The entire area is enclosed by oak fences that are strong, yet softened by the storms they have seen. No trees have rooted themselves in its soil. There is nothing obstructing the view of the sky.
The field had become a common place to run. We were about to run the first lap. Most 5ks are measured in kilometers, or maybe three miles and a killer final tenth, but here you measure the 5k in laps. The first lap. The second lap. And the larger, uphill third lap. We knew the route around the field from experience, and we knew this run was not going to be easy. I doubted our ability to complete the third lap fully because my friend and I were alone and prone to giving up too early. We began by warming up, looking for motivation, eyeing the sketchy three black cars in the middle of the field. Talking. A timid sense lingered in the air, but nothing too stirring.
For a while they were as vacant and silent as coal: appearing calm to disguise buzzing heat. The kind of heat that you don’t want to touch, that you don’t want to stare down straight in its non-blinking headlights, ripping up grass as your hairs stand on end, while you’re looking at this hurtling ball of black heat coming at you.
The fear was as blinding as white light. I have never been so disappointed in my legs in my entire life. No amount of effort made me far enough from the car behind me. We could have just stood still (it felt like we were). We had come here to run for fun, not be chased.
It will haunt me forever. When I think of this chase, I think of looking over my shoulder. I think of stopping to close a gate. I think of looking, and seeing, and tinted windows and tinted men and outlines of people who look like dead, ash-gray ghosts, and I remember sparkling white spinning tires, and I remember a hum, and I remember eye contact. You don’t need to be able to see distinct eyes to feel eye contact. He drove a car into my eyes right then.
The rest of it is blurry in my memory, like a pall of confusion rests on the following events, like a tinted window covers this wretched memory. A scream for help, a phone call, a fence hopped, an engine silenced, and the sarcastic retreat of the car that chased us just to chase us.
Running down a road nobody drives on, next to the fence from old oak trees that see and never speak, we finally got to the busy road that brought us our closure. We don’t know why tire-marks covered our frantic footprints, or what they wanted, or who they were, or any of the questions our heartbeats drummed out into our spinning heads; we did not know the answers. But we readily welcomed that it was over. Except, as we hugged each other, something inside us remained unstable, remained unthinking, remained running.