My daughter has her first cross country meet today. She’s a bit apprehensive about it. I understand that completely, recalling how I was both excited and nervous about my first race. It was the Marcie Mazzola Memorial, a 4 miler held on April 19, 2009. Although I had read a lot about racing prior to the event I didn’t know how things would look or feel when I was a participant. How soon before the start does one line up? Is the front of the line reserved for the fastest runners? Do you talk to other racers while waiting for the gun? What if I finish last?
I remember being confounded by the water station. How do you drink water while you’re running? Should I even take water for a short race that’s happening on a cool spring morning? I was confused by the others on the road with me, some flying by and others well off to the side, practically walking. I do remember thinking, “Should I be passing people so early in the race?”
By the time I’d reached the other side of Main Street I had figured out most of my questions. The large hill that one encounters soon after the start of this race had taken a lot out of me and I was concerned that I’d have enough energy for a big finish. Even though I came upon another hill at the end I managed to push hard enough to finish with a decent time. I had my first experience crossing the line and seeing my family cheering at the side. I must have liked that because I’ve run ten more races since then. My daughter will experience the same anxiety that I did, followed by the exhilaration that comes from finishing a race. I said to her the same thing I’ve said to many others, “You only have one first race. Pay attention to every detail.”