“No one passes you on that hill, Emily.” I heard that in my head. On repeat.
I rounded the second-to-last flag and, dog-tired, glanced up at the gully I had to climb.
“Show me the same guts you showed me last year.”
Oh, he wanted guts? I’d give him guts. What have I got to lose? I thought.
I looked down at my feet and powered up the incline. Faster, faster, faster. I passed every girl who had been in my sight the entire race. With the speed came the whimpering. And the pain.
“I’m sorry … I’m being … so annoying … I don’t …. usually whimper!” I said to a competitor. She gave me a sort-of smile and I passed her before reaching the flag at the top.
The usual man-made chute awaited before the finish line. The time flashed near the 20-minute mark. Oh shit. I tried to power up my tired legs, but they wouldn’t move. Wouldn’t move.
Someone grabbed my arm and someone else yelled “DON’T TOUCH HER!”
I tried to get back up.
My legs still wouldn’t work.
I panicked (and I distinctly remember yelling out “I’m not usually this dramatic!” to the onlookers).
Next thing I knew, a mess of faces stood over me in the sun’s unbearable heat. I could hear Robby, my dad, Dr. Denny, Coach and the two trainers from the university. All babbling at once. All trying to calm me down.
Nothing could stop me from breathing heavily. My panicked state, plus the heat and a roaring heart rate combined to create 90 minutes of hyperventilation.
Finally, vomiting seemed to calm me down.
My team placed second. We were looking to win that particular meet this year.
I couldn’t keep any food down for the rest of the day. Robby, saint that he is, tied my hair back while I vomited in my dorm room. He even dumped the bucket. (“I’d hold onto him if I were you,” Dr. Denny told me, when we talked about the whole ordeal later that day.)
I let the team down. I let myself down. Eight years of running and nothing of the like had ever happened to me.
We ran at Notre Dame two weeks later. I had exhausted myself with worries of a recurring incident.
It happened again.
I managed to finish the race (20:07 – not a time to sneer at considering the way I felt), but could feel it coming on again in the last 100 meters.
I basically have not run since. I visited my doctor. She gave me orders to see a cardiologist and not to run for awhile. The cardiologist can’t figure out what my problem is. I’m experiencing abnormal heart palpitations at night along with my running problem. They’re going to send me a heart monitor this week.
My coach told me that he doesn’t want the stress of races to interfere with my health. Last week he had goals of getting me to run in the championship race. Now those are demolished.
My season is basically over, but my goal is to run on Nov. 9 in the last race of the season.
I feel shitty in general because I don’t know what’s going on. And I know part of my problem is my mentality since the first race. I’ve never been one to have pressing health issues, or any health issues, for that matter, and now I feel like a faker. I feel like this isn’t even real. I have to convince myself that my symptoms are real. I have to keep convincing myself that I’m not missing the season for no good reason.
What makes me feel the worst is that I am letting my team down.
I wish I could make it up to them.