From:  Jessica Galli, Track and Field

I live in Champaign, Illinois, home of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the area, Champaign is located between cornfields and soybeans about three hours south of Chicago, three hours northeast of St. Louis and two hours west of Indianapolis; in other words, I live in the middle of nowhere --or for fans of Jason Aldean… in one of those “fly over states.” 

Having been born and raised in New Jersey, my move to Champaign ten years ago came as quite a culture shock. Had anyone told me that I would still be living in Champaign ten years later, I would have laughed and said, “Yeah, right.” But here I am, a proud Illinois resident, homeowner and Champaign townie.

As you know, 2012 is a big year for me and my fellow Summer Paralympians. When the clock struck midnight on January 1st, I think it really set in that I only had eight months left to train for the Games.

Training in Illinois in the winter months can be rough. The ground is often covered in snow, the temperature barely creeps above freezing, and even the sun can’t brighten the mood of cold-despising individuals like me. But as good fortune would have it, last week, as 25,000-plus students left campus and headed to sunny spring break destinations, Mother Nature brought sunshine and warmth to Champaign! For the first week of spring, Champaign saw 70°F – 80°F temperatures every day. Crazy, I know!

It was a good thing, though, since the facility in which I train was being renovated and therefore closed for the week. This meant that the team was training outdoors, rain or shine, cold or warm. My coach also thought it would be fun for the team to train together last week, which meant that sprinters and distance racers would all be training on the road, putting in miles and spending quality time with the corn and soybeans surrounding the city.

For those of you who don’t know my racing career, I’m a middle-distance athlete. The 400m and 800m races are my best friends. In between competing in track meets, I compete in road races, usually 10 kilometer to 13 miles in length.  Distance races are not my forte.

So when I saw my training plan for last week, and the shortest workout on it was 8 miles and the longest was 16 miles, I knew I was in for a tough week. And it was!

Yet with each day of training, the distances became easier to handle and by the end of the week, 16 miles didn’t seem too bad. I had forgotten what it was like to push outside with the sun shining down on my back and my teammates around me, all of us working together to make the workout a success. The winter months can feel never-ending and at times challenge my focus and drive to train.

But with the preview of summer weather last week, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have a job that allows me to be outdoors, to spend time with friends, and to challenge myself every day. I mean, how many people can say that their job has taken them to the world’s stage and allowed them to succeed far beyond any dreams or expectations they set for themselves as a child?

So here’s to wishing for more sunshine and warmer weather! 


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