Rookie Relay Running


Next up in our Penn Relays Memories is from Jenny DeSouchet.  Jenny got the chance to compete at the 2012 Penn Relays as a Columbia freshman as a relay anchorwoman.  She has since transferred to the University of Colorado – Boulder, where she is an 800m/1500m runner for Colorado’s track team and a scoring member of the cross country program.  She is currently a senior who is studying English.  She only got the chance to compete at one Penn Relays, but it was a good learning experience for her…

I’m almost positive that my heart rate was higher while sitting around before our warm up for the 4×800 meters than it ever was during my short two minute (ok, a little over two minute) segment of the relay. An older male teammate had to make sure I was going to be ok, because I guess my fetal position and facial expression probably suggested otherwise.

The year was 2012, my age was 18, and although I had raced a number of college races by this point of my freshman year, the number of people in the stands made me feel as though I had no idea what the word “running” actually entailed. Regardless, when we entered the stadium for our race, after what seemed like years of waiting outside in perfectly assembled lines to avoid chaos, the crowd was astonishing and my nerves shifted more towards excitement. I basically entered into a huge fantasy that everyone there was in attendance to watch the my small part in the College Women 4×800 Championship of America event, instead of the more realistic scenario that most were there to see lots of fast professionals and international runners break some big records.

I was the anchor leg in our relay, and by the time I got the baton we were within a pack of teams we wanted to beat. So when I got the baton, I naturally sprinted out at an unsustainable and terrified pace thinking something along the lines of “ha! I will now PR, so catch me if you can!”. Which they did, because my legs, as legs do when one goes out way too ambitiously, got pretty tired and I hit a wall with about 500 meters to go. This is not a pretty sight in an 800. A couple of people passed as I finished with all the gut I had left, and I finished slightly worse off than when I had gotten the baton. This was disappointing, but I had still run close to season’s best while also not falling, not messing up the hand-off, or getting hit by a meteor or even become paralyzed of stage fright.

Perhaps this sounds like an unheroic tale of a one-timer at the Penn Relays, but it was certainly a stepping stone towards becoming less of a weenie in crowds, and a bit more subtle in my racing strategy. From my single experience at the event, the atmosphere of the relays allows you to be apart of something important, and even more, makes you feel like you are capable of achieving something important as well.

Editor’s note: the Columbia foursome of Erin Gillingham (2:10.3), Madeline Rathbun (2:10.0), Trina Bills (2:16.2), and DeSouchet (2:14.9) finished 7th in the race with an overall time of 8:51.42.  Oregon won the event with a time of 8:24.16.  Full event results can be found here.

racing photo by Tony DeSabato

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