As I counted the bruises up my shins, I also kept counting down the days until the bubble would be torn down. I thought that I would never miss that two-and-a-half lane track — one of the lanes just disappearing into nothingness, the sharp corners, and concrete straightaways disguised with a thin layer of rubber. We dreamt of the new field house we had been shown on building plans and posters since the day we had our first recruitment meeting. We hardly thought about what we were going to do in the interim without a track, nervously giggling when we mentioned it off the cusp and our coach even shrugging with a grin when we asked about our plans for next year. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” With that bridge now ahead of us — and the baseball, softball, ultimate frisbee, and lacrosse teams all waiting to cross it with us — life outside the bubble all of the sudden feels very real.
I love running for its simplicity. That it’s just you out there on the trail or in your starting blocks, and that all you need is a pair of shoes. Abebe Bikila even won the 1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome barefoot. You are the creator of your own destiny. No one else.
However, it’s easy to say that simplicity has not been the theme of this year’s season. We leave now our fate in the hands of the weather gods, constantly checking the weather app on our phones for whether the temperature will peak at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., when the sun will set, switching our off-day from Sunday to Wednesday in pursuit of an extra ray of sunshine and one more day on the outdoor track. 43 degrees used to be our outdoor cut-off point; we’re now pushing low 20s — snowflakes mixing with our cold sweat.
Indoors, Nelson Arena resembles something of a refugee center. Sprinters run on rolled out pieces of rubber or hug the walls of the arena trying to replicate 200m intervals. Hurdlers walk over hurdles set up in the middle of tennis courts. Throwers hurl javelins that occasionally get stuck in basketball hoops and jumpers launch themselves onto mats squished in the back. Other teams watch on patiently, waiting often until 7 p.m. or later for their turn.
Yet no one complains.
We are still the creators of our own destiny and nobody can change that. I’ve often been called crazy for choosing track and field as the sport I wanted to pursue in college. And to be honest, I probably am crazy; most of this team crazy is for how much they love running. That love is what is making life outside the bubble tolerable. The desire to get better, faster, and stronger never stops. I’m still hungrier than ever, and lamenting the fact we have no real place to practice doesn’t win races.
The future of Middlebury Track and Field is exciting; in the next year, and for the next 30 years and beyond, this team will be practicing in a facility that is capable of hosting NCAA competitions. Seniors, in their last year of racing and unable to reap the rewards of the new field house, still excitedly talk about the benefits of the construction. While racing is an individual event, this team is truly a family. While we run for ourselves, we ultimately each run for each other. We run bubble-less for this year for what it gives the next generations of Middlebury athletes, with the schedule changes, crowded spaces and sore shins are more than worth it.
Sport is sometimes sacrifice, but it makes the victory so much sweeter.