Runner Blog: Sarah Michels 5K at NBNI

Sarah snagged a selfie with Brie Oakley at New Balance Nationals Indoor

*Disclaimer: Sarah Michels is a junior at Assumption High School. This was her first national championships meet experience. She reached out to to KYTrackXC to document his time in NYC. Any athlete that would like to do this in the future, please email There is nothing better than hearing about your experiences competing in our sport from your perspective.

New Balance Indoor Championship- 5K

Sarah Michels- Assumption High School  Class of 2018

Alexi Pappas, a poet, director, and Olympic runner, once said about a race, "I came in last among the best. That's when I knew...I wasn't done yet." I think this quote sums up the most valuable thing I've gotten from my experience at New Balance Indoor Nationals. I didn't come in last; I actually finished 9th in my heat and 22nd overall in the 5000 meters, but I still would like to adopt Alexi's philosophy as I learn and grow from this opportunity. 

I came into this race not exactly sure what to expect, but certainly very intimidated. I mean, I know I'm a good runner, but great? I wasn't sure if I quite fit in with the caliber of athletes at a major meet like NBIN. But, as an individual who is always striving for perfection, I wasn't going to settle for a decent race or last place. No, I was going to go after it, because honestly, what did I have to lose? As I warmed up in the hour before the race, my heart was beating out of my chest. The feeling intensified as the officials guided my fellow competitors and I to our positions on the starting line. I had barely enough time to take a deep breath before the gun went off. The race had begun. 

"Oh. My. God. This is fast. Oh. My. God. Why are you doing this?" My mind screamed at me in the 40 second split first 200. I was in dead last, but it's not like I was on a Sunday stroll. That's when I realized that merely running hard wasn't going to get me anywhere in this field of competitors; I was going to have to run smart. So I did. For the first 1000 meters, I stayed on the tail of the 2nd to last girl, trying to hold on while using the minimum energy necessary. Then, when I noticed the larger group pulling away, I ditched my spot at the caboose and slowly worked my way up to the larger group over the course of several laps. I continuously told myself, "They are going the same pace as you, they are just ahead." This logical thinking allowed me to push myself despite the increasing level of pain. After a couple laps with this new group, the leader came up on us. I didn't know she was the leader at the time, and so I went with her for as long as I could stand it, which brought me up to the next group of runners. Throughout the rest of the race, until the 25th lap, I continued to make my way towards the front, eventually securing a 4th place position in the race. I felt stronger than I had ever felt before; I was unstoppable. I sprinted across the finish line on lap 24 in 17:36. Too bad a 5k has 25 laps. That's right, I miscounted my laps. I hadn't realized that I had been lapped during the race, and so I thought that the bell applied to me too. Unfortunately, I did not realize my mistake until I had already stopped for several seconds. I'm not a quitter, so I finished the last lap out, but all my momentum had disappeared, and it cost me five places and about 16 seconds. But, I still got a time of 18:26, which is a 7 second PR for me. 

Although I am frustrated by my mistake, I truly believe I ran the best 24 laps of my life. Several factors contributed to this. First, simply being at a competition like NBIN forces you to go out of your comfort zone. I couldn't waste this amazing opportunity to race against some of the greatest in my sport by not using every little ounce of strength I had. The meet was super cool, and it made me feel like I was one of the greats, so in a placebo effect kind of way, in my own mind, I became one of the greats. Second, the competitors pushed me in ways I have never been pushed in a race before. They were extremely friendly before and after the race, but during it, they were fierce competition, and I was honored to run alongside them. Third, I told myself I had no limits, and for once, I believed it. I kept on thinking of something I had heard before in a motivational video comparing human potential to the ocean. It said that just like there is never a point in time where one couldn't put just one more bucket of water into the ocean without it overflowing, there is no point in time where you couldn't have gone just one second faster, or one inch higher, or one meter further. Limits are simply illusions, and we should not be wary of them. During my race, I took this to heart, and I told myself that I could go a little faster, I could make my way up to the front, and I would walk out of the meet a changed runner. I was right, but like Alexi, I'm not done yet. Next year, you can bet I'm coming back, and this time, I'm going to run 25 entire laps, sub 18 minutes.