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Now I know what it's like to race a mile

POSTED: June 14, 2017 12:50 p.m.
Arianne Brown/

In all of Arianne Brown's experience running, it wasn't until her son's recent interest in track and field that she ran her first 1500-meter race.

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In recent months, my 10-year-old son Ace has started a fun adventure in track and field, finding that he quite likes the 1,500 meter run.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely ecstatic about this new endeavor because I was around his age when I began competing in track. And, as opposed to my other children who play soccer and perform onstage (things I don’t do), I finally feel like I have something to contribute to by way of a little knowledge and expertise.

For nearly 25 years, I have raced in events in distances ranging from 100 meters to the 50 miles. I know what it is to grit your teeth in the few seconds it takes to run the 100 and 200 meters, all while pushing every single muscle in your body to its absolute limit. I have felt the complete loss of muscle function in my legs in the final straightaway of the 400 and 800 meters. I understand the mental challenges that come with finding the balance between pacing and pushing it during a 5K, 10K and even half-marathon and marathon distances. Finally, I have experienced what it’s like to lose your mind completely in an ultra-distance race all while trying to fuel your body with food and mental energy to keep yourself going.

However, in all my years of racing all these distances, there is one that I have absolutely no experience with: the 1,500 meter. I have never in my life raced a 1,500 or even a mile on the track in any sort of official event, and I felt extremely inadequate in coaching my son because of my inexperience.

All that changed this past Saturday while checking Ace in for the USA Track and Field State Meet. While getting his number, I noticed that there was a form to fill out for “open runners,” aka, “old people,” and on a whim I paid my fee and signed up.

I finally got my chance to understand just what my son felt like as he pushed his way through those grueling four laps. And let me tell you, it was nothing like I had ever experienced.

Unlike the 800 or even 5K, this race was an even more delicate balance of patience, perseverance and dead out sprint to the finish.

The race started out quickly, and I worried about what I had gotten myself in to. Soon after, at about the 200 meter mark, the runners ahead slowed to a relaxed pace — almost too relaxed. After two laps, my body became accustomed to the pace, and I felt pretty confident. Then the leaders started to pick it up to a gear I wasn’t sure I had. I was finally able to get my turnover up to speed as I entered the bell lap, but I was no match for what was to come, as the top three girls turned on a another gear that I did not have.

I now have a cough that I’m not sure I will ever rid my body of.

This race was tactical. It was mental. It was physically challenging. But it was awesome.

I now know what it’s like to run the 1,500, and I feel I can better coach my son — or, at the very least, understand what it is he is experiencing so that I can cheer louder and give more encouragement during the times he needs it the most.
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