This morning’s training session was conducted on a very busy indoor track at the Vaughn Center, the health club facility to which we belong in Aurora. There were two separate youth track teams working out, a pickup basketball game infringing on the inside lane at one end of the track, and a full team practice for the Aurora University baseball squad.
That meant we had to choose our lanes wisely. To be respectful, I chatted quickly with the head coach of the Aurora Christian track team, letting him know our workout plans. “We’re doing 12 quarters,” I told him. He smiled and told us they weren’t doing much running for half an hour anyway. We could have the inside lanes for now.
While we worked out, the track team did all sorts of plyometrics, stretching and high knee drills. Getting in shape for indoor track is a question of getting muscles to do things that winter discourages. Outside the temps were down in the low teens. Yet here were kids in their low teens working out at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. The coach had them stop now and then to take their pulse rate, the indicator of blood coursing through their arteries and veins. Carrying oxygen. Replenishing fatigued muscles. It’s the same for everyone. Young and old. We are all bloody lucky to be alive.
There were guys and gals of all shapes and sizes on the track team. Compact little sprinter girls no taller than 5’3″ but with thick thighs and the sprinter’s butt to match. Long lean high school boys whose shirts collapsed into their skinny guts as they ran. Thin as heck. Knees still stretching with growth. Loping their way down the track. They hardly looked thick enough to allow blood flow to occur.
We threaded our way doing 400s through these groups and had a good workout despite the human obstacle corpuscles all around us. We were like blood cells inside a vein. Wending our way through the masses.
Meanwhile, inside the big nets hanging down from the ceiling, the baseball players with thick beards and flat-brimmed caps did stretches and engaged in throwing drills. They looked like they were on a stage rehearsing for some big play. The smack of baseballs into leather gloves gave me a latent thrill. I’d grown up playing the game.
I was an avid and decent baseball player all the way through high school. The last year I pitched for a summer league, my record was 5-1, a record equal to my friend Corky who went on to become All-Conference for the high school team.
Thus I was conflicted on what sport to do. At that time I actually wrote to my brothers living back east that I was planning to go out for baseball rather than track my senior year in high school. When the season approached, I recall talking to my St. Charles track coach Trent Richards. He’d also been my baseball coach when I lived out in Elburn. So he understood the conflict I felt and told me that he’d let me do both sports if I wanted to try. But my grades were so average the guidance counselor put a stop to that right away.
Yes, those were confusing times indeed. Yet that period in life comes back with such clarity while running laps around an indoor track where track kids and baseball players share the same space. All those sights and sounds are familiar to me.
Heart of the matter
It’s a fact sometimes that our life choices get made for us by circumstance. There is little we can do to change them. They become habits, a calling, then a way of life. Running around a track has been a part of my life for so long now that I feel like a corpuscle swooping through a curving artery until I get back to the heart and start it all over again. I’m like a science experiment with no results but a sense of satisfaction. But is that bad?
But I’m happy. Generally so. I can still do this thing. And I remember what it feels like to be a kid. The stride smooths out and I’m running fast for my age, just like I did at any age. It’s all so relative, this being alive and kicking. And it’s bloody good to be alive.