Starting over new



My resolution to leave the NMU Varsity Volleyball team was made with a heavy heart and conflicting emotions. When I told my folks of my decision, my mom’s first question was, “Callie, sweetie, you’ve got a lot of intensity. What is your outlet going to be?” Long-distance running had always been something I would try “when volleyball was over.” Well, that excuse was spent, so I signed up for the Lake Superior Shoreline Trail Half-Marathon. I was ready to become a different athlete.

For guidance, I turned to the online version of the runners’ bible: With tips and training plans for all levels of experience and ability, I found a nine-week half-marathon program that fit what I wanted. “You’ve run for at least a year, but you’re still a racing neophyte. You want to go longer and your race time is less important to you than finishing.” Perfect. To log my training, I used, which I found to be invaluable.

The transition reenergized me. Running was whatever I wanted it to be: casual, serious, strenuous, a sluggish shuffle. I could focus on listening to my body during those long runs. I switched up routes often, finding ideas from local runners on MapMyRun. Life slowed down and began to make sense.

The miles soon passed with ease and in the seventh week, I joined the double digit club. Ten miles: a runner’s universal rite of passage. For someone who had once dreaded the timed mile in gym class, this was a big milestone. I finished and felt great – hopes were high.

Wednesday before the race, I began battling flu symptoms that progressively worsened through the day. This was not part of the nine-week program. After sleeping for 12 hours, I woke up in a puddle of sweat, with my fever and chills gone. I tried running on Friday to loosen up my tight muscles, but I could hardly make it a block or two before stopping to rest. This was not good.

Saturday: gametime. With a poor night’s sleep and tremors of whatever I had repressing my energy level, I arrived at Little Presque Isle. There I stood, surrounded by runners who all seemed to have done this before. Nine weeks of training behind me and 13 miles ahead of me, I pushed aside any anxieties about my health and took off with the crowd.

All races start in a flurry but I knew immediately the pace was just too fast for my condition. I tried to hold out, thinking I could get into a groove. I was running with my training partner – her pace was supposed to be my pace – but it was not happening. A slew of emotions threatened to overwhelm me. This was not how I envisioned my first race.

Just as it had been doing since I decided to quit volleyball, life told me to slow down. As I rounded a corner, a runner was on the ground, yelling and holding his ankle. Being a wilderness first responder, I was obligated by medical licensure and stayed with him until someone with superior training came along. This unexpected stop allowed me to regroup. Any sort of competitive drive that had been pushing me left with the rest of the pack. I had the trail to myself.

Running through the woods returned me to the reasons why I started. As I made my way along Harlow Lake and up Top of the World and Razorback Ridge, I thought about volleyball and my life without it. My pace was barely more than a walk, but when the trail broke open by Wetmore Landing, I smiled at the thought of finishing along the shore of Lake Superior.

Less than a mile to the end, I came across an older woman who was clearly struggling. With panic in her voice, she said she was unsure if she could finish. I altered my pace to run with her, and we had a nice talk that moved our focuses away from our aching bodies. We crossed the finish line together, embraced and went our separate ways to recover.

In one big, sappy metaphor on life, my first trail half-marathon was a rewarding experience. I probably should not have gone ahead with the race, and my body let me know this as we spent the rest of the weekend in bed. It was in those hours that I was taught the value of listening to my body. It will not lead you astray. It will tell you exactly what it needs to perform well. Next time, I will listen.