A day in the life of an athlete

For one cross country runner, it was good to be competing again despite restrictions.

I woke up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday for the year’s first cross country race. Though I’d  been waiting a year to finally compete, it was difficult to climb out of bed. It baffled me to think this was ever a normal occurrence. I packed my bag just how I had a little over a year ago–but this time, I included three masks.

Donning the uniform that’s been waiting in the back of my dresser since August 2019, I glanced in the mirror. It still fits. 

At Walnut High School, where the meet was being held, I parked in a lot designated exclusively for  Diamond Bar  and Walnut runners due to COVID-19 restrictions. Once our coach was in sight, we masked up to greet her. 

We entered the school’s front gate and prepared to walk the course, familiarizing ourselves with it before the race.  In a usual cross country season, I would be racing in a park full of trees and trails. However, because of sports regulations under COVID-19,  I now had to race on concrete surrounded by school buildings. 

I warmed up and headed to the starting line, noting how few of us there were. Our team, once 14-members strong, has dwindled to five as a result of the pandemic. Many of the girls quit in fear of catching the virus and now we only have the bare minimum amount of girls to possibly place. 

A man shouted “Runners on your mark” and the race began. As I ran, I noticed an array of colorful posters. They said things like “Go Diamond Bar” and “We Love Cross Country.” I didn’t know who made them, but I was grateful for the words of encouragement. 

My race finally ended and I saw my school’s athletic director and principal cheering me on. I was quick to go back and put my mask back on, and my coach told us she is proud of our performance. My teammates and I then left campus to run an easy mile to prevent injuries. 

While cooling down, we were able to peek into the school and cheer on the boys team but briefly. It felt strange to only be able to encourage them this way–throughout my five years running competitively, I have always been able to cheer on my teammates without a metal fence holding me back. 

We returned to the school and passed by the line of parents who are waiting to get health screened before being allowed to watch the race. This race was one of the only races my parents have missed due to COVID-19. There was also a security guard making sure everyone on campus who wasn’t racing was wearing a mask. If any of my teammates took off her mask for a second, the security guard would promptly tell her to put it back on. 

I grabbed all my stuff and left like my coach had advised, even though it felt like I was only there for an hour.  I got home and waited for the results to come in and my team ended up getting third out of five teams. Regardless of the outcome and circumstances, I was happy to finally race again.