10 Sep 2006

Sunday Thoughts - Small Miracles

Sunday is a day that I always look forward to on campus. It is a refuge after a chaotic week, a day where there are few obligations because everyone is occupied studying in their favorite nooks of the library. Sunday is the one day all year where my schedule remains the same, week after week. In the morning I get up at around 8:30am for a 9am practice, which is always a long run of 10 or more miles. After the run, our whole team converges on Danforth for Sunday brunch, where we reload on pancakes, bacon, sausage, tater tots, omelettes, and cereal. Then comes a refreshing shower, and the rest of the day is devoted to studying and work, with a break at 6pm for dinner followed by 7pm Catholic mass at the on-campus chapel.

Today was no different, except that I went to Barnes and Noble between brunch and dinner and spent about five hours there, studying Discrete Math and completing the reading for my Arabian Nights class tomorrow while sipping on a Chai Tea Latte in the café. Barnes and Noble is one of my favorite places to get work done. The noise level is just right to make me feel comfortable without being distracting. And, since I don't usually know anyone there, I can work without getting interrupted. Of course, I always allot myself 30 to 45 minutes before the bus comes to browse through the books :)

Possibly my favorite part of Sunday is going to church at night. At home I went to church because I had to, whereas here I go because I want to. The priest is very charismatic and a great speaker who understands what college life is like, and masses are well-attended by the student body. But church is split between public worship and private prayer, and the latter is really important to me as well. Mass provides me with the opportunity to sit down after a long week, reflect on and and give thanks for all the good things that have happened, and then put the past aside as I ready myself for the next five days of classes, running, and college life.

Mass tonight dealt with the topic of healing. As part of the sermon, Sister Jackie discussed miracles, and shared a story about a time when she felt that she had a guardian angel watching over her. She encouraged us to come up with one miracle that each of us had experienced in our own lives, and to write it down before we went to bed. At first I couldn't think of any "miracles" that happened to me recently. Then I realized how many small things happen in our lives every day which we might not call miracles, but which are truly worth being thankful for. I often feel like someone is watching out for me, and therefore I don't worry about decisions that I don't have control over, because I know that things will almost always turn out fine in the end.

In the fall of my junior year of high school I ran on the Cross-Country team, just as I had for the past five years. We were nearing the end of the season - the District Meet was the next day, followed by the State Meet in a week. It was Friday night, and our team was at the house of one of the senior captains for the customary pre-race pasta dinner. My upper right canine tooth had been bothering me for a few months, aching whenever I ate something too hot or too cold. That night, the pain grew worse and worse until it was impossible for me to sit down because my blood pressure would rise so much that the pain was unbearable. I left in the middle of the movie we had been watching and drove home trying not to think about the pain. My parents and I decided that we didn't want to go to the emergency room that night just to get painkillers, so I took some leftover vicodin from when I had my wisdom teeth removed and went to bed.

I woke up the next morning feeling extremely groggy from the vicodin. My tooth was still killing me, so I knew that I wasn't going to be able to ride the bus to the meet with the team. I drove to the school, informed my coach that I was heading to the dentist and that I would hopefully drive up to the meet later. The dentist took some Xrays and told me that I had a large infection inside my gum (later we learned that it was caused by a misformed, extraneous root tip which was removed after two surgeries). The dentist wanted to operate immediately to try to get rid of the infection, but I was thinking the opposite - just give me some painkillers and antibiotics and I'll deal with it after the race. We hopped back in the car and drove to Missisquoi, Vermont for the meet. The whole time I was in the car, I felt woozy from the previous night's vicodin. I had taken some Advil but my tooth still hurt. I was seriously debating whether or not I was able to run, but decided to postpone the decision until after I had warmed up.

Coach had reserved a spot on the Varsity team for me, but I got there too late to warm up with the team, so my dad came with me. I got out of the car and took a breath of the crisp, late autumn Vermont air, and I immediately felt better. I started jogging, and with every step my head cleared a little bit more.

Running Shadow

It felt so good to be running, moving around after the stupor I had felt on the drive up. I got on the starting line feeling incredible, and my team was really happy to see me. The race was a phenomenal one - for both me and my team. I came in 6th out of 90 kids, and I ran a 16:47, the fastest I had ever run a 5K, which stands as my personal record to this day. Our team went 2-3-6-8-12, easily beating the next team, our biggest rival, by 20 points. And we just missed (by 5 seconds) having 5 kids run under 17 minutes, a big feat to accomplish for any high school team. Obviously I was shocked that I had run that well, our team was psyched, and our coach was extremely pleased. That race was one of the best I've ever run or will run. It was one of the few races where I got into "the zone," that elusive level of distance running where the faster you go, the better it feels. The ground was moving under me, and all I had to do was stand still and watch it go by.

I will forever remember that small miracle for its giant effects. That race, one that I wasn't even sure I would be able to run in, has now become an inspiration to me. It is one of the reasons that I continue to run, to train, to kill myself during races. Every so often, whether it be during a race, or just one of those rare special training runs where the weather is just right and the road stretches on forever under my feet, the results are spectacular.