Thursday, June 4, 2009

Relays

The TIaRT topic on Runners' lounge and J's post on the topic reminded me of my track running experiences in high school and college. I was a mediocre runner at best, but I took my running very seriously. I participated in 400, 800 and 1500 meter events. And I ran to win. So, track meets meant hard work, sweat, tears, pain, nausea, and at times, exhilaration.

The event closest to my heart was the 4x100 meter relay. It was an event where the sweat, tears, pain and nausea were quartered and shared with 3 others; and the exhilaration was quadrupuled and shared with the same 3 others. I loved the drama of running the relay and the glory of winning it.

In college, the focus shifted to academics and sports was just a diversion. I did attend the rare intercollege competition, but they were low-key events and not a big deal at all. But once a year, our college hosted an athletic/sports event, that was open only to post-graduate students of the college. The number of students totalled 200, and less than one third participated in the events, so finding men and women for each event was challenging. The rule was, if you found enough students to participate in an event, the event was conducted; if not, it was dropped. We didn't have a proper track, so we converted the college soccer field into a rough, dusty 200 meter track, by measuring and marking it with white powder. But despite these 'minor' inconveniences, the competition was intense and spirits were high. It was like our academic rivalries had found physical expression.

Now, the men in every team far outnumbered the women. One year, after evaluating our teams, we discovered there were only 4 girls on our team who were willing to run the women's 4x100 meter relay (and only 2, including me, who had ever run before, let alone raced)! One of us, my best friend, was prone to attacks of wheezing. The other teams were stronger in number, health, and some of them even had a back-up or 2 (but very few had competed in races, so all teams were more or less at the same competitive level). Our team strategized and trained as much as we could for a week (during which time, the 'non-runners' ran for the first time in their lives) and motivated each other. By race day, we were all pumped. My team-mates were confident we had trained well enough to pound the other teams to the ground.

The women's 4x100 meter relay was the last event. We had managed to scrape together 4 teams, and 50% of the women students were participating in this event. There was a lot riding on the relay...scores from other events were tallied and the Best Team trophy would go to the team that won this event. As the first runner in each team took off, the rest of us roared in support. The first and second legs of the relay went off flawlessly, and our team was in the lead. Then, the baton was picked up by the third runner in our team, my friend. She worked her legs faster than I've ever seen her run before, gaining on the other teams, carried along by all the crowd support. But she had covered hardly 20 yards, when she tripped (till this day, we don't know what she tripped on...her own feet?) and came hurtling to the ground. The impact of the fall, the physical exertion and the dusty track brought on a wheezing attack. She lay wheezing for a few seconds, too shocked to move. All the other runners passed her. Everyone went silent. Then when she moved and seemed to be unhurt, the cheering started again...this time, everyone was encouraging her to get up and run. I thought our race was over, so my jaw dropped as I saw her rise, a fierce determination lighting her eyes, and race all the way to where I was waiting at the final baton exchange. In the final leg, I was able to beat 2 other runners, and our team bagged second place, but nobody cared about the trophy anymore. We were too busy celebrating the hero of the day.

And that was my long-winded way of saying, you GOTTA LOVE RELAYS!

14 comments:

Abby said...

I love that - "I ran to win."

What an experience with that relay - I just felt my heart rate picking up as I read your recounting!

Relays were my favorite events as a swimmer, too :) So much more fun when you can share the agonies and ecstasies with a group of people, especially in a solo sport like swimming and running.

Amy said...

I like this post..relays ARE the best. You are running not just for yourself but for 3 other people. I was part of the 4x800....so fun.

Marlene said...

What a great story!! I think I would love the team aspect of competing in a relay, although a 100m sprint would probably kill me. ;) Thanks for sharing!

Mel-2nd Chances said...

what a wonderful post and story -- always love hearing of those that persevere, fight and give their all... serves as such motivation! :)

J said...

I love relays too! glad you participated in the TIART this week and shared your story!!

Heather C said...

Great post!! Never being a track runner myself - I've enjoyed these recaps!

Heather said...

I love this post. I've never been in a relay, but LOVED watching them during the Beijing olympics! :)

Beth said...

I love how it's the races where bad things happen that really make an impression on us. You probably wouldn't have given the race another thought if you had won easily, but it meant so much more to get second after having a dramatic set back. Great story!

merrymishaps said...

What an exciting race. Great story!

X-Country2 said...

What a cool story! Relays are fun. A great way to turn running into a team sport.

D10 said...

I really enjoyed your story! I remember running relays back in grade school on field days, So much fun.

Roisin said...

That makes me kinda wish I had done racing in high school and/or college.

Coloradan said...

I love your story. Now do I know your friend?

I Run for Fun said...

Thanks Lakshmi, this is a story from my MBA days, so I don't believe you know the person.