Rachel Hickey Speaks: Learning To Run Brave

2018 will be my year of many lasts, and some firsts. As I head into my graduation year, I acknowledge all the "lasts" I am about to face, seeing as I am entering my final semester of high school. I will walk the halls of LaSalle-Peru High School one last time as a student. I will compete with the bold colors of red and green on my back for one more season. I will race on the iconic "blue oval" at Eastern Illinois University one last time. However, my year of lasts also brings a few firsts, as I have committed to run cross country and track at Illinois State University next fall. I will compete for the first time as a Redbird, and I will live away from home for the first time as well.

To say this year is going to be one to remember is an understatement. 2018 is going to be epic, especially with the dreams and expectations I have set for myself both on and off the track. I hope to end my high school track career with a bang and I am looking forward to continued growth and improvement at ISU.

I have never been known as someone to set reasonable goals for myself, and it shows in my track seasons. I've got big dreams and I set my goals accordingly. This season, for instance, I plan on chasing after some records, both school records and state records. I also strive to simply better myself in every event by the end of the season. However, my main goal for this season is actually rather general- to be brave. 

Throughout my high school running career, I have consistently been pinned as a "tactical racer." In the 800m, I typically tend to start conservatively- I am more than willing to let another runner take the pace out. I would race the first lap based on what other people did before taking the race into my own hands in the second half. While I have experienced much success with this strategy, I will need to do something bigger and bolder if I want to achieve my goals and run faster than ever before. 

Since this year does mark my final opportunity to race as a LaSalle-Peru Cavalier on the big blue oval, I would like to end my high school career with no regrets. I have altered my training to be more aggressive in the first 400m and try not to look back. My coach has explained the value of improving my endurance levels to carry me through the remainder of the race and reminds me to trust my training. This has always been a scary thought: going out hard means risking dying out before the end of the race. This irrational fear is something I am attempting to get over, and in order to do that, I will need to be brave and accept this risk. 

To me, running brave means racing gutsy. It is having the courage to race and risk falling short. Accepting failure is another puzzle piece, for failure is simply one's First Attempt In Learning. Running with courage is not racing without fear or doubt, either. It is shoving those negative thoughts aside and showing them who is in control. It is overcoming your fears and proving your doubts wrong. It is leaving it all out on the track when it matters most. 

At some point in my prep career, I had to tell myself that I could run with the best girls in the state, and doing so took a lot of courage. I was forced to put myself out there and do the impossible-- do what nobody probably believed I could do. Today, running brave is much more difficult. I must accept the new challenges that come with training and competing at such a high level: higher risk of injuries, new and unexpected competition, and accepting failure. It is indeed harder to compete at your peak performance with so many more complications. It is even harder still to try and force your body to do what it has never done before-- to go beyond where it has been. 

However, running brave does not have to stop with the end of this track season. I will continue to run with courage and faith this summer, where I will train harder than I ever have before, compete in my first half-marathon, and hopefully race at New Balance Outdoor Nationals. Beyond that, I will embrace what challenges are to come at Illinois State and do my best to put my best foot forward, always. I will work hard to be a part of my new team and remain healthy all year. I will even be courageous outside of running. I will conquer my final semester of high school and embrace the college workload with open arms. With this mentality, I can do anything and be anything I want to be. 

So, to all the track athletes out there- to the jumpers, the throwers, the distance runners, and the sprinters--be brave this season, no matter what your end goals may be. The concept of competing with courage surely is a challenge, one that I, myself, may not be able to accomplish in its entirety. However, I will never know until I try, and neither will you. Make 2018 the year we all attempt to be brave, both on and off the track. For how can we know our limits unless we test them?

Run brave, and good luck to all this track season!

Personal Records
  • 400m - 59.86
  • 800m (in) - 2:17.52
  • 800m - 2:13.49
  • 1600m (in) - 5:40.36
  • 1600m - 5:14.70
  • 3.x Mile (xc) - 19:36.70
  • 3 Mile (xc) - 17:41.00
  • Triple Jump - 30-0.5