A few weeks ago, I competed in the heptathlon at the conference championship meet. The most interesting experience I had all weekend was my long jump experience. Long jump is part of the heptathlon, but I had also qualified as an individual. Unfortunately, the mark I got in my heptathlon long jump would not count toward my mark as an individual, so I would have to long jump twice in the same day. This doesn’t sound too bad, but I also had to do six other events that weekend. Heptathlon long jump was the first event of the second day. I was on the top of my game and jumped a personal best long jump. If only that jump had counted for regular competition too.
Less than 10 minutes before the final event of the heptathlon, the 800 meter run, went off, the individual long jump competition started. Each long jumper gets three tries, but I would only have time for my first try before I had to go to the starting line. I ran the same approach that I had run for my successful jump earlier, but I was so nervous about the 800 that I ended up fouling the jump and not getting a mark. Trying to push the unsuccessful long jump attempt out of my mind, I headed to the start line of the 800, determined to focus on only that even for the 3 minutes it would take for my heptathlon career to be over. Both times I ran past the long jump pit, I made a point to ignore what was going on, and instead focus on the cheers from my teammates who had circled the track in support of my teammate and me.
The thing about mid distance races such as the 800 is that by the end, your legs feel a little numb, or at least very shaky. This race was no different. As soon as I got off the finish line, while my fellow heptathletes were congratulating each other and contemplating what type of pizza they were going to get now that the two-day competition was over, I was walking as fast as my shaky legs would allow me back to the long jump pit. If I hadn’t missed all of my attempts, I might be able to get a mark, albeit a very short one. The problem was that there was a rather large crowd of coaches and teammates gathered around the long jump ref and I had very little breath to tell them to move so I could talk to the ref. Just as I approached the crowd, I heard the ref call out my name for my third and final attempt. “I’m here!” I shouted, stumbling through the crowd. “I’m here!” The entire crowd turned to look at the crazy, breathless girl tripping toward them. In long jump, once your name is called, you have a minute to start your approach or you are disqualified. I walked as steadily as I could to the end of the runway, my legs feeling about as strong as Bambi’s in the scene where he first learns to walk. In the short 60 seconds that I had, I caught my breath as well as I could. This time, I stared the board down. I wasn’t going to step over it; I couldn’t foul. My foot hit right on the board, and I landed in the pit. A perfectly legal jump. Even from looking at it, I could tell it was short, but I didn’t care. None of the other jumpers had run an 800 right before their attempts, so in my book it was pretty impressive. And as it turned out, the ref took pity on me and allowed me to make up the jump that I had missed after the rest of my flight finished, and I jumped a respectable distance on that one. It wasn’t anywhere near my personal best, but it was decent . Especially considering it was my eighth event of the weekend.