Now I was a little banged up over winter break, but I would be foolish to think my last collegiate season would come without some adversity. Every time I go out on the track PRs aren???t going to happen just because I???m convinced I???m a better runner now than I was a few years ago. The work needs to be put in and I need to be ready for battle every race. If I do that I know I will be competing at Hayward Field at the end of May, satisfied.
Here???s to making the next four months count.
“Adversity” — what an understatement.
In all honesty, I haven’t seen all that much of it in my 24 years. I have lived a fortunate life with little worry, surrounded by the best family and friends. Perhaps this is why my life is so involved in athletics — I have had the opportunity. I never had to work late nights to pay for my college education and could always afford to travel to the very best competitions. But from my sheltered perspective, the last 14 months have been quite trying.
In March of last year I had knee surgery, forcing me to forfeit an indoor and outdoor track season. In May, I split with my girlfriend of 4.5 years, who was my biggest supporter and best friend. Running helped me get through it, focusing on the outstanding cross country season NAU was sure to have. A couple injuries to key members of the team and an unfortunate day for our captain David McNeill at NCAAs turned our national championship dream into just another top-10 team. I, however, had a pretty successful season, improving on my NCAA finish from the year before. But it was no All-American performance.
Shortly after beginning training for my final track campaign, I started battling IT band pain in my knee. While cross-training in December, I crashed on my bike and broke my wrist, limiting my cross-training options. I got through the indoor season and made a — now considered a very successful — debut in the 10k on the track. Then, with less than three weeks until the Big Sky Conference Championships I developed an Achilles injury. Still, I knew I had to give it my all in the 10k and 5k as it could have been my last track meet, my last time wearing a Lumberjack jersey. Then I got that infamous blister…
This post is not meant to be me complaining about how unfortunate I am or how “rough of a year I have had.” Weeks, months and years from now I am going to read this post, and I want to capture exactly what I was thinking and feeling the day I found out I had one more, and this was all a part of it. Yes, that painful 5k at Sacramento State last weekend was not my last track race in NAU blue and yellow.
At practice this morning, I nervously checked my iPhone to see if the declarations for the NCAA West Prelim were posted. Once they were, I slowly scrolled through the results. When I got to the men’s 10k, I went one name at a time.
13th. Ahmed Osman.
31st. Tim Freriks. “I moved up 10 spots. PD, you got a shot.”
I paused at number 47. This is my track season. The next name determined whether or not I am a collegiate athlete anymore. This is my 18 year long running career we are talking about!
48th. The final qualifier to race the 10,000m at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field is. . . JASON PEDERSEN.
I lit up. I was sure I had no chance of qualifying. Someone pinch me. Surely I was dreaming. Nope, this is for real. I have one more race. One more time to pull that NAU singlet over my shoulders. One more time to line up against the nation’s best college athletes. One more time to say thanks to all my supporters over the years by simply doing what I love, running hard.