By rabbitPRO Kaitlin Goodman
After last summer, I had every intention of hanging up my track spikes. I’d competed in not one but two events at the 2016 Track & Field Olympic Trials—more than I could have hoped for. I’d raced my way across Europe, running in track meets from Belgium to the UK to Finland. I’d even run the Olympic Standard in the 10,000 meters. With so many bucket list items achieved, many people (including myself) assumed that after 2016, I’d retire the track spikes and move on to the marathon.
Yet as I was planning my spring schedule, the track kept calling me back. Despite having success on the roads, and having opportunities to race in some fun road events, I couldn’t ignore the track’s beckoning. I still had some unfinished business—faster times to chase, more laps of the oval to circle.
So in early May, I made my annual pilgrimage to Palo Alto for the Payton Jordan Invitational 10,000 meters. I have raced on the track at Stanford every spring since 2002, in high school 4 x 800 meter relays, college 5ks, and pro 10ks. Running on that track feels like being at my grandma’s house–it’s familiar, comfortable, and a place where I feel relaxed and at ease. This year it was no different–the familiar smell of the eucalyptus groves, the Palo Alto evening chill causing me to reach for a zippity-do-dah for an extra layer. As I sat on the picnic tables in the athlete area, sipping my coffee before it was time to warm up, I was happy, relaxed, and ready. Racing can be nerve-wracking, but when I'm competing on a track so familiar and friendly, I feel in my element.
The crowd was full of friends and family–Strava TC teammates, my mom and brother, friends, coaches. As I toed the line, I couldn’t help but smile, so happy to be back on the track where I had run many a hard workout and fast race. And that smile stayed plastered on my face for the ensuing 25 laps–I was grinning as I found myself a spot on the rail in the lead pack, tucked in for the ride. I was smiling as we came through 5k right on target in 16:00, just as planned. The grin continued as I moved up in the field, passing women lap after lap. Don’t get me wrong, the race was HARD–I was working for those splits, grinding away at a personal best. But I was smiling my way to a new PR–truly running joyfully out there. I crossed the line in 31:55, my first time under 32:00, good for the IAAF World Championship Standard and 4th in the US this year. That feeling of running faster than ever before, to the cheers of my nearest and dearest, in my favorite place to race—that is why I came back to the track.
I’ve got one more track meet ahead of me–the USA Outdoor National Championships in Sacramento on June 22. My track spikes live to run another race!