Rain is good, but not during a track meet

November 8, 2022 — by Annie Liu
Photo by Annie Liu
I grow concerned about slipping on the track before races in the rain.
Sipping a cup of tea at home while raining is pleasurable, but running a meet in the rain is not my cup of tea.

Last track season’s St. Francis Invitational on March 18 was a one-of-a-kind experience — a stressful one. After months of no precipitation,  California’s wacky weather decided to rain on this fateful day. It could have been any other day, but no — it had to be the one day I had to run for a long time.

“We run rain or shine!” assistant coach Kathy Tippetts always told us.

I never took that statement seriously, because it never rains in California. April showers bring May flowers, I suppose. But it wasn’t even April!

On that Saturday afternoon, I arrived at the track meet after staring at the rain dripping onto the car window, imagining myself slipping on the damp track and missing the hand-off on a relay. 

I was there to run for the school’s girls’ varsity 4×100 team, which was scheduled to start at 2:10 p.m. sharp. The rain was pouring down, and it felt extremely cold in my track sweat pants and jacket — both of which were slowly getting drenched.

The crowd and the boys’ 4×100 race made me anxious. As I watched the racers run with all their might while the rain beat down on us, every inch of me was shivering a little.

As our race drew nearer, our team warmed up while waiting for the call to get on the track and were given a piece of tape for marking where to take off. The meet was bigger and more crowded than other invitationals we had been to, and the way the event was ran was quite unfamiliar to me.

 I waited in the line for the second leg of the race, took my sweat pants and jacket off, and had no choice but to leave it on the ground. Wearing only a jersey and a pair of shorts with very thin fabric, I was freezing. 

The other runners also seemed to be in a panic. The rain and wind was making everyone rash and a little impatient. It was chaotic, but the race had to go on.

Waiting to be called to the track, I stood with my hands over my shoulders, my legs getting stiff and heavy. This was bad, as it’d be harder for my legs to move. My heart beat fast, and I tried to regulate my breathing. I stood and watched the heats go by and wondered when — and how — this would end. 

“Saratoga, lane 7,”  the announcer said. 

My heart was beating out of my chest. I stepped onto the track with my piece of tape that marks when I can take off when the incoming runner comes.

The track felt slippery, and from that moment, I knew I would not be running at my top speed. I’d still give it my all, nonetheless. 

I counted my steps hurriedly and stuck the tape onto the track, but the tape would not stick on the wet surface. Fearing that it would get blown away, I knelt on the ground trying to press the tape down. It was even worse than having only a minute left to finish a math test after realizing you left an entire page blank. 

It felt like everyone on the bleachers and track was looking at me and my frantic behavior, wondering when I’d be ready for the race. In reality, no one was really watching. 

It was hopeless, and they were already calling the start of the race. I left the tape as it was. If it blew away, I’d just have to wing the timing. 

I stood with the coldness of the rain and wind and stared at my hand-off partner at the end of the straightaway. The gun went off before I could think more hopeless thoughts.

I looked back, ready to receive the baton. The first leg approached and I took off a tad bit late. I felt the rain against my cheeks and arms. The others beside my lane were gaining more distance, but if I ran any faster, I’d have a high risk of slipping. 

My handoff with the third leg was also a hiccup: I had to dodge runners from the other lane who got in my way, and it took me a lot of effort to catch the third leg. It was an awful race, one of the worst of the season for me. We ended in fifth place out of seven teams in our heat. 

After the race, I checked in with the team and coach and put my soggy sweatpants and jacket back on. I went home pretty disappointed.

Rain is nice when I’m sitting on a couch with a cup of tea and a blanket at home while it’s raining outside. But it’s something entirely more menacing during a track meet. 

For the next track season, I will make sure to pray that I do not have to run another meet in the rain ever again. If it ever does, I will prepare a set of clean, dry clothes for me to put on afterwards, an umbrella and a mind prepared for chaos.

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