It’s a typical cloudy and windy day for the Chicago New Balance runner, Alyssa Poremba. I find her patiently waiting for me at Lake Shore Drive’s track, the track that holds her memories from the past couple months’ training towards her recent PR’s of a 1:19:05 in the half marathon and a 35:06 in the 10k. Prior to this Spring, Poremba could be find in the pool or on a bike due to 2 stress fractures that set her back from ideal training over the past year.
I remember my first season of track a couple of seasons ago, watching her grind out the 3k in the CCIW indoor conference. I was witnessing a runner commit to the thrill and agony that racing holds for its victims and to this day I can still remember the look of determination on her face. Alyssa has such grit when she races, a trait that cannot really be coached, even by running’s best teachers. She also holds a tremendous amount of discipline and dedication to the sport, as training through two stress fractures in a row can really take a toll on a runner’s drive and spirit. Even after a 6 month break from college running and 2 stress fractures, she has managed to have a recent successful Spring.
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about what perseverance is. I think a lot of times athletes can be delusional about achieving a goal. The saying or belief of not letting anything stand between you and your goal or not letting anything stop you is terrible advice, in my honest opinion, especially in the world of running.
There will be obstacles, many situations and trials, that will come between you and your goal. Don’t let them stop you, but pausing or slowing down is okay. The key is to embrace them and deal with them as they come, knowing that the skills you acquire from them will only make you better.
This Spring marks my 3rd year of running and if there is one thing I have learned about succeeding in distance running it would be that be that resilience is key to achieving our potential in this sport because things don’t always work out. I remember my first coach, Jake Shaver, who now coaches at Illinois State University told me in my first cross country season: “You should really enjoy this (referring to my qualification for DIII nationals my freshman season) because it won’t always be like this. Things happen and not every season will have as a happy ending” ….I had no idea what he was talking about and didn’t think much of his comment until later in my career when things didn’t work out as planned. At the time, I thought, “well, if I put in the hard work or work even harder–I will just get better!”…I realized this is not how distance running works. I realized he meant that, there is no way for a runner’s season or year to always work out as planned, even if they are working hard. Injuries happen, burn out happens, bad races happen, bad conditions happen, bad calls are made, stress happens, etc. I realized that all we can ask of a runner is to give their very best in all aspects of training, enjoy it, and if a challenge arises, don’t stick our heads in the sand, but deal with it as best as we can and accept the challenge knowing they have enough resilience to come out the other side smarter and stronger.
Alyssa Poremba is what comes to mind when I think of resilience.