Saturday Spotlight- Jacqueline Sweet

Thanks to Lou for asking me to do this week’s Saturday Spotlight 🙂

So here is either the story of my life through running or the story of my running through life. As the only non-athletic child in an athletic family who had no interest at all in sports or even emerging out of my room where I drew and read non-stop to see the light of the sun, my biggest and only sports related accomplishment was being the fourth-fastest girl to run the mile in fourth grade. I ran 7 minutes and 50 seconds around the Babylon Grade School track, just because I wanted to keep up with the popular girls. I remember calling my dad at work to recount my peer-pressure driven feat, the pride of somehow doing something cool with my body instead of my brain as I was used to, indelibly burned into my memory.

After a failed foray into junior high school tennis and softball my athletic lights dimmed further. I never ran the high school mile. I cut class, smoked cigarettes, walked around the track in my punk rock clothes, and stayed home to do drugs during the mile. I coulda been a contender but instead I was a rebel without a cause. Long story short, after essentially dropping out of high school, going to community college for my senior year (where I took sailing to fulfill my high school gym credit ) I ended up at Stony Brook on an Honors College scholarship, drugs long gone, but still with a pack a day cig habit. One day a friend of mine who used to run for soccer took me to the YMCA gym with her. I did the Stairmaster and at her urging tried to run a little on the treadmill. I think this started as maybe a vanity project, an attempt to get into aesthetic shape, but it soon took on a life of its own as a challenge. I couldn’t run much more than a huffing and puffing mile, mile and a half. I worked my way up to running three miles, and I knew I had crossed a threshold. I’m a runner now.

Eventually the absurdity of smoking and running led me to quit smoking. I threw a mostly full pack of Parliaments out of my car (the gesture was worth my only lifetime littering) and never touched a cigarette again. I went out every night in the cold winter air, walking and running the hills of Port Jeff around my college apartment, replacing the urge to smoke with a new habit. I ran consistently after that. I had no idea of my pace. I listened to music and I always ran alone. When I moved to Manhattan for graduate school I still ran, still clueless how far or fast. I lived on 33rd Street on the East Side and ran down the East River. A short run was the Manhattan Bridge, my medium run was the Williamsburg, and if I was feeling really good, I ran down to the Brooklyn Bridge, looked up under the awesome pillars, stone and cement, amazed at the feeling of self-transport: I came here, with my feet.

After my first child was born I got more into fitness and worked out at the gym, doing weight and spin class in addition to still running. I mostly ran the trails in Southards Pond to Belmont Lake, still my favorite place to run. A friend asked me to do a 10k race with her in the city, the women’s NYRR June race. Doing a race had never occurred to me, since I figured I was just slow and what would be the point? I remember proudly finishing in something like a high eight minute pace. Little did I know that would be slower than my eventual targeted marathon pace. Then I did a sprint triathlon on a whim after my gym advertised a training program for beginners and won my first ever award (second place age group.) I bought a road bike, tried it out twice, then rode 100 miles to Montauk. I had the racing/training/better/faster/more bug now. Three years later, I’ve done a few races, gotten more serious, had another baby, had a car accident and a concussion that sidelined me for six months, recovered and tried to run my first marathon, got hurt, got kind of better, got kind of hurt again and now it’s a May Saturday morning and I have chronic vestibular dizziness, a hip labral tear, bilateral patellar femoral pain syndrome, a tendonosis in my gluteal medius and the only plan that makes any sense: Time to go run the trails.

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